After 1,114 games played for the Chicago Blackhawks, Brent Seabrook has retired from the game. In his time with the club, he became a face for Chicago hockey. Three Stanley Cup rings, over 100 goals to his name, and a fat paycheque to go along with it. Needless to say the Richmond, British Columbia native has had quite the career. Since his first season in Chicago, he has been a staple on the blue line, snagging 13 consecutive seasons averaging over 20 minutes of ice time. With his booming point-shot and fantastic two-way style, Seabrook was a star from the beginning.
Through his lengthy career, however, things weren’t always so great for the Chicago blueliner. Injuries plagued the latter half of his career and ultimately forced him to step away from the game. Today we’re going to take look at Brent Seabrook’s career from draft day in 2003 through the end of his long and successful career.
Looking Back at the Career of Brent Seabrook
Before the NHL
Seabrook played his junior hockey career for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. It was noticeable early on in his junior career that he was primed for a long NHL career. At a young age, he was already eating up minutes on the blue line and dominating at the two-way game. He was never the most elite player in the offensive end, but his size and on-ice vision allowed him to be a useful quarterback for play when it was needed.
After two seasons in Lethbridge Seabrook entered the 2003 NHL Entry Draft with 15 goals and 66 assists for 81 points, and sat in the top 25 among NHL Central Scouting’s North American skaters for that draft. Pick 14 came around and then Blackhawks general manager Mike Smith selected the young defenceman with their only first-round pick. Seabrook was in good company with Corey Crawford and Dustin Byfuglien in that draft class. Seabrook went on to play two more seasons in Lethbridge before making the jump to the NHL in 2005.
NHL Career Pre-Dynasty
Before Kane and Toews
After missing what would have been Seabrook’s first season due to the 2004 lockout, the young blueliner was ready to step up and play meaningful minutes. The season prior to the lockout was one to forget for the ‘Hawks, having missed the playoffs for the sixth time in their last seven seasons, among other issues within the organization. The 2005-06 season was a bright light in a sea of darkness that the team had been facing over their last stretch of seasons. Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Dustin Byfuglien, and 21-year-old Corey Crawford all made their NHL debuts that season. The team also made a move in acquiring future alternate captain Patrick Sharp in December of that season. It was early on, but the makeup of their 2010 Stanley cup roster was starting to form.
Seabrook played major minutes in his first season in Chicago and made a positive impact on the blue line next to Duncan Keith. In his rookie season, he was thirteenth in Calder Trophy voting, notching five goals and 27 assists for 32 points. As was projected a few years prior at the draft, his dominance in both ends of the ice instantly made him a mainstay on the Chicago blue line. Next to Duncan Keith, a player who could cover every inch of ice as effectively as Seabrook could, he was performing at a top-level.
The following season he dropped off in point production, notching only four goals and 20 assists, but he was just as effective in other parts of his game. The team around him didn’t get much better, grabbing the first overall selection in the 2007 draft where they picked up their future star forward, Patrick Kane.
Calm Before the Storm
2007 saw the team, and Seabrook, take their next steps towards becoming the Dynasty that fans came to love, or hate, during the 2010s. Patrick Kane lit up the league that year on the Blackhawks, and Seabrook was on the ice with him a whole bunch. Continuing his dominance of the Central Division from the Blackhawks’ blue line was something that came easy for the then 22-year-old. He picked up 32 points that season and averaged 21:30 a game. To be relied on that much at 22 and perform as well as Seabrook did is no small feat. Seabrook blew the expectations out of the water that season. He was a puck magnet in Chicago’s own end, blocking 106 shots to rank third in team blocked shots behind Keith and Brent Sopel.
The following season saw a major increase in Seabrook’s role on the team. He earned two extra minutes on average each night. He blocked more shots, dished out more hits, and was slightly more sound defensively than the psst season. As he improved so did the team around him, lead by the rest of the young talent Chicago had been developing the past few seasons. Seabrook made his first playoff appearance that year, appearing in all 17 playoff games for the team. He averaged a whopping 26 minutes during the postseason, almost half of every game. After a heartbreaking loss in the conference finals, Seabrook and Chicago were on the verge of one of the greatest cup runs in NHL history.
The Dynasty Years
Stanley Cup 1
The Blackhawks entered the 2009-2010 season fresh off their first playoff appearance since 2001-02. It was also the first time they won a series since 1995-96. Needless to say, it was the first taste of NHL success for the new core, including Brent Seabrook. Seabrook might not have been the best defender on the team, that honour went to that season’s Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith. With that being said Seabrook still was a fairly good contributor from the blue line. He got top-pair minutes with Keith, lead the second power-play unit, blocked over 150 shots and gave out over 200 hits. Add on his third 30 point season in five seasons and that’s a great year for a young defender.
By the time the playoff rolled around, Seabrook was ready to play another 26 minutes a night for however long his team kept themselves in the playoffs. 22 games, 11 points, and one lap with the Stanley Cup later and Brent Seabrook had etched his name in the NHL’s history books. This wouldn’t be the last time he did this, however.
Stanley Cup 2
Brent Seabrook and the Blackhawks came into the 2012-13 season following two first-round exits the previous two years to the Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks, respectively. On top of these playoff disappointments, the team had to wait to get going as there was a lockout. Despite these playoff disappointments and off-ice issues, the Blackhawks were geared up for another run to the Cup. Chicago made their intentions clear by dominating the league going the first 24 games without losing in regulation (21-0-3). The Blackhawks made a statement by going 37-7-5 and winning the President’s Trophy.
Seabrook played a fine complement to a Duncan Keith that season, as he usually does, but there was something different about his play. He didn’t regress offensively or lose the edge to his game, but his defensive game wasn’t nearly as great as the team around him made it seem. He only had 15 takeaways and a whopping 40 giveaways and had a negative cross relative to the team. For a top pairing guy, this isn’t ideal. No matter, the team around him was doing well and he was still capable of playing 22 minutes a night. There wasn’t too much Joel Quenneville could complain about.
The playoffs came and went and Brent Seabrook, once again, added his name to Lord Stanley’s cup. Perhaps his signature moments with the team came in Game Four of the Western Conference Semi-finals. The Blackhawks were trailing the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in the series and 1-0 in the game. Captain Jonathan Toews took three second-period penalties and was coming unglued. With Toews seething in the penalty box, Seabrook skated over and calmed the captain down. While the Blackhawks lost Game Four, the moment served as a catalyst for the ‘Hawks who won the next three games to eliminate Detroit. To cap it off, Seabrook scored the series-clinching overtime goal, in Game Seven.
Chicago blew past the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference final and the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals. And while he only put up three goals and four points in the playoffs, two of his goals were in overtime.
Stanley Cup 3
2015 saw Brent Seabrook slowly start to regress. Given the eye test, one might think that this is a crazy statement. Looking closer and you’ll see that his days as a top defenceman in the league were numbered. A negative relative Corsi, 65 giveaways, among other issues were once again overshadowed by the team success around him, as well as playing next to a two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman. He ended the regular season and entered the playoffs with eight goals and 23 assists for 31 points. Entering the playoffs Seabrook needed to play to his strengths in order to give the team their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. 23 games, seven goals, and 26 minutes of ice time a night later and Brent Seabrook had lifted the Cup for a third, and final, time.
The 2015-16 season rolled around and the three-time cup champion had just extended his stay in Chicago by eight years and holding a 6.8 million dollar cap hit. Little did fans, general manager Stan Bowman, and Seabrook knew but this move marked the beginning of the end for the once top-tier two-way defenceman.