The good news, is that, in five, 10 or 15 years, when Brent Seabrook’s No. 7 is heading to the United Center rafters while his family watches and a crowd cheers, much of what is happening now will be ignored, if not completely forgotten.
The bad news? The current situation will probably get uglier before there’s any sort of resolution.
Seabrook was first scratched against the Kings on Sunday night by head coach Jeremy Colliton, citing a desire to rest the 34-year-old Seabrook.
Colliton on his reasoning for sitting Seabrook: "We want to get Gilbert in, and it's a back-to-back. It's a good opportunity to give Seabs a rest and see what Gilbert has."— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 27, 2019
But Chicago had Monday off and, after learning he’d be back in the press box Tuesday night, Seabrook couldn’t hide his frustrations while facing reporters after the morning skate.
A visibly upset Brent Seabrook: "I don't think I need rest. I think I feel great, I'm 34, you guys seem to want to write articles about my age and my speed. I feel like I still got a lot to offer in this league and still be a good player for somebody." #Blackhawks— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) October 29, 2019
The words “for somebody” elicited a strong reaction on the Internet, raising the possibility Seabrook could be open to waiving the no-movement clause that’s part of his 8-year, $55 million contract signed a few months after a Stanley Cup victory in 2015. That deal remains a millstone around the organization’s neck, popular fodder for a list of the NHL’s worst contracts.
Faulting Seabrook for accepting the contract offer is farcical. What human being would turn down long-term job security and an 18.5 percent raise in a field that rarely offers either to do the same job for eight more years? It’s absurd to think any player, in any sport, would turn down that opportunity — especially when it was likely to be the final payday of a storied NHL career that started with six years at an average annual salary of $2.2 million.
Still, the reality is impossible to ignore: Seabrook’s on-ice performance has not matched the salary cap percentage his contract consumes. According to Corsica data, Seabrook is the lowest-ranked Chicago defensemen in terms of percentages for Corsi events for (43.33), shots for (47.81), and expected goals for (42.33) at even-strength play. He’s been on the ice for 11 goals against and only three for in his 158 minutes of ice time in all situations. In his last game, he was on the ice for three of Carolina’s four goals, including an even-strength tally where Hurricanes forward Nino Niederreiter turned Seabrook inside-out to open up a shooting lane.
Expecting Seabrook to back down seems unlikely. The same drive and determination that made him a first-round pick in 2003 and a cornerstone of the franchise for more than a decade are the same personality traits that led to him airing his frustration Tuesday. Colliton seems stuck between two unstoppable forces here: Seabrook’s insistence that he can still contribute at the NHL level and Father Time scoring yet another victory on the declining skills of a professional athlete.
There’s probably not a happy ending here. Seabrook’s anger at being scratched won’t dwindle, yet those instances will probably continue, because it’s hard to envision a career renaissance for a player who’ll turn 35 years old next April. A trade would be an easy out were it not for the aforementioned massive salary cap hit — and no-movement clause — tied to Seabrook’s name. If general manager Stan Bowman can find a trade partner, Chicago would likely need to accept a portion of the salary hit in return, keeping Seabrook on Chicago’s books until the end of the 2023-24 season.
It’s not fun now. It won’t be fun in the short-term. The only hope is the long-term picture — which has some incredible peaks in the not-so-distant past — is the vision that remains once this fire is extinguished.