Seabsy has been an absolute cornerstone for Chicago’s defense over the past decade, but we all can’t help but notice that he’s lost a step or two in his game. I, in particular, have noticed his decline since their first round exit against the St. Louis Blues in the 2015-16 NHL Playoffs. His physical presence was lackluster, his two-way game was absent, and his overall presence in the defensive-zone went unnoticed. Now, merely 14 games into the 2019-20 campaign, Brent Seabrook has served as a healthy scratch on multiple occasions, and we have to wonder what is to be done with the 3x Stanley Cup champion veteran?
Out with the Old, In with the New
The veteran d-man is now 34 years old, trying to play a style of hockey that is outdated and inefficient in the modern NHL. Hockey today is no longer a sport of brute force, with men the size of linebackers on skates obliterating each other and scoring 3 goals a game. Today, the youth movement is overwhelming the NHL, and teams no longer want the forward that is 245 lbs and only knows how to fight, because there are now players who can pass the puck, score goals, hit, fight, walk the dog, and paint your back porch. Rather than teams wasting a roster spot for a meat-head, they’re going to add an 18 year old kid who can skate the entire perimeter of the ice in 13.5 seconds, while still being able to lay the wood. Seabrook was useful in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s back when the league was still violent and aggressive. Seabrook does not have any stick skills, nor is he fast in comparison to the other defensemen across the league. While he might have been able to blend in and dominate physically in the past, he is constantly burned on the outside today, as a speedy winger will easily skate around him and go on an odd man rush.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
In 2016, GM Stan Bowman extended Brent Seabrook to an egregious 8 year – $55 million extension ($6.875 AAV). While I can’t blame Seabrook for getting his money, I can blame the negative impact it has on Chicago’s salary cap. They are wasting $55 million based on the performance he had in the past, and not what he is currently contributing. If you were to ask me, I wouldn’t sign him to anything larger than a 2 year – $3.250 million contract. While he is a big-body and has a large stick-checking radius that can keep an opposing player at a comfortable distance, he is not contributing anything points-wise. Furthermore, due to his decreased speed, he is taking lazier penalties (tripping and hooking) because he can’t keep up with a player like Conor McDavid. I firmly believe that the Blackhawks should bite the bullet and trade him to a contender like Boston or Colorado for draft stock. While the MOST they could get for him is a late second round pick, it is a deal that Chicago needs to strike before his value plummets to a seventh round pick and a low-end prospect. He is not benefitting the team in any way, and is quickly becoming a liability when he steps on the ice. The NHL is now a league that has the need for speed and high scoring. Brent Seabrook does not fit this scheme. Plain and simple.
The Deeper Message
Chicago’s playoff window has been shut, locked, and barred up. GM Stan Bowman should cut ties with long-time veterans like Seabrook, Duncan Keith, and goaltender Corey Crawford, to free up as much cap space as possible. By doing this, you lose long-term players, and future hall-of-famers, but you gain cap space that can be used to sign pending free agents like Dylan Strome or Patrick Kane down the road, while also leaving the door open to add any superstars that hit the free agent market in the summer. The Hawks have been in denial that their opportunity has closed, but after missing the playoffs each year since they were swept by the Nashville Predators in 2017, there is little hope that their top-six can bring this team back to the postseason. A full rebuild is clearly not necessary – there are a lot of solid, young pieces set in place now – but, a small rebuild is required for this team to be considered a threat in the West. They should collect draft picks in exchange for aging veterans, and build a respectable prospect list. They have compiled a small group in recent years with the selections of defensemen Adam Boqvist (No. 8 in 2018), defensemen Nicolas Beaudin (No. 27 in 2018), center Kirby Dach (No. 3 in 2019), and defensemen Alex Vlasic (No. 43 in 2019). Their lack of success in recent years is of no surprise, and the only way to bounce back is to cut loose ends, and look towards the future.
How it Used to Be
Defensemen Brent Seabrook has been a member of the Chicago Blackhawks since he was drafted in the first round (14th overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft. Since then, he has won three Stanley Cups, played in 1,091 NHL games, and scored 461 points. He also has a tremendous +/- 105 (on the ice for 105 more goals scored for than goals scored against). He has had a borderline legendary tenure for the Blackhawks, and will surely be remembered as a pioneer for their dynasty that featured three Stanley Cup titles by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers (2010), Boston Bruins (2013), and the Tampa Bay Lightning (2015). In each of these championship runs, Seabrook was a staple in their defense, and contributed on offense by scoring three overtime-winning goals in those playoff runs (twice in 2013, once in 2015). Standing 6’3”, 220 lbs, he was a force to be reckoned with behind the net and on the half-boards, as he crushed wingers who thought they could beat him with speed. At the end of the day, there was nothing that made you want to run through a brick wall more than a Brent Seabrook howitzer from the point that found its way in the back of the net for the game-winner. As goes the popular song by Third Eye Blind, How it Used to Be, we can only think of all the great moments Seabrook has left behind over the years, and I truly wish him the best from now, until well beyond his playing days. Though he is no longer an asset to this team, and being that this is a business, not a family, the weak ones need to be let go.