Three surgeries. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Boy if you want cover for how you’ve fucked up the past two seasons, this is going overboard but it just about does it.
The Hawks are probably hoping that this kind of massive, physical reason for Seabrook’s play and subsequent removal from the season will stop all questions. But it doesn’t, really. It’s just that none of the answers are good, or really mean anything until they get to a final decision. Which is either somehow retirement or an LTIR’ing for all of next year as well. Otherwise…well I don’t even know how to finish that sentence, but let’s dig in the now for now.
I wouldn’t be accusing the Hawks or Seabrook of making this up. They wouldn’t announce a buffet of surgeries for him and then send him to Tupac and Biggie Island. Would they? These are obviously things he’s been dealing with.
I guess the cover story is that Seabrook had simply covered them up, played through them, and didn’t tell anyone that he was so physically broken. Except…that’s incredibly hard to believe. Even if he was as secretive as possible, everyone noticed the drop-off in his play. At some point as he was tumbling down the mountain of usefulness, you’d figure some coach would have asked, “Is everything ok? Can we check you out?” You want to believe Quenneville, who did scratch Seabrook once and both had a massive respect for each other, would have sat him down before that healthy scratch. Especially if these maladies are as impactful as the Hawks want you to believe now. You can’t make a guy go for an MRI I suppose, but you can say you’re not going to play much until we find out what’s going on. It’s harsh, but well, look what the results of not doing so were.
So the Hawks want us to believe either they’re negligent or medically incompetent. Given how they’ve handled concussions in the past and other injuries, I suppose the latter isn’t far fetched at all. But we’re not talking about some obvious play where Seabrook got hurt…in three different spots…like we are with de Haan. He clearly fell funny in Vegas, and undid his shoulder surgery. For Seabrook to have all of these hit at once, he would basically have to be in a car accident.
Instead, he’s been a car accident. These have been degenerative injuries, at least that’s what we’re supposed to conclude. His body has been breaking down. And while hockey loves itself a “warrior” story, that kind of story falls apart when a player is actively hurting the team. Which Seabrook has been doing for at least three seasons now.
Let’s rewind here. Say the Hawks opt for this with Seabrook last year, when these conditions must have been making some sort of impact on his play (at least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe). Now you could have had Jokiharju here the whole season, really see what you have, and perhaps not become so disenchanted with him that you traded him for a seat-filler (sorry Feather, it’s what he is). That’s just one example.
If, somehow, Seabrook had kept all of this a secret and didn’t start wincing until he got into the car to go home from the arena, well he’s certainly got an otherworldly pain threshold, but that’s also negligent on his part. Playing through injury and pain is a given in most every sport, but when it comes to affecting your game and team, that’s a problem. We know Seabrook is the proudest of the proud and would never admit to anything wrong with him, or at least not in a way that affected his play, but there’s also a hint when you start to get scratched and demoted down the lineup.
You’d think the team would want to use his physical condition as a cover for his play, as they and he have been getting slaughtered in the press and among the fanbase for quite a while now. You’d think you might want to protect him a bit, given that he has seemingly given just about everything to the team.
And still, we’re less than two months between “I can help a team somewhere” after a scratch to “My body is now made of saltines.” We’re fivemonths between him telling Mark Lazerus at the convention “I’m going to shove it up everyone’s ass” to “I can’t move without something sounding like tin foil being crinkled.” That seems like a pretty short window to go from totally healthy to possibly finished forever.
Perhaps the Hawks and Seabrook have known about all this for a while, and it limited all their options. Even with eating half of his salary, if the Hawks could have found a taker there would have been serious trouble if he’d showed up to a new team with one shoulder and two hips turning into chowder. Maybe the only solution was to stick around, and if he’s sticking around they just didn’t feel they could fridge him until it became obvious there was no other solution.
I guess that’s where we’re at, but that means the Hawks knew about this for a while and probably should have done this a while ago. Like before they moved Jokiharju, who would hardly be a savior but would improve what you have and also give you further evaluation time on your future.
Where it goes from here, you can probably see. There is little to no chance Seabrook can rehab back from three surgeries, including on both hips which are only somewhat vital to a hockey player, and even be what he’s been lately and that’s not good enough. I’m sure the Hawks will let him try, and kind of pray it becomes clear to even Seabrook he has to retire. They can’t make him, obviously.
What it means for this year and all the LTIR space…well it’s not much really. The Hawks would only spill heavily into that if they were “going for it,” which this team absolutely should not do. I’ve seen the idea that they should take on bad contracts to get more picks and prospects if possible, but they can’t really do that either. A) they have serious cap problem next year thanks to this past wonderfully genius summer, so they can’t take on long-term bad paper and that limits what they can get for just taking on a few months of it and B) we’ve seen with Hossa that teams don’t ever want to use LTIR in the summer, as it limits flexibility in-season.
Even buyouts of Maatta and Shaw doesn’t open up enough space, you would think, to keep Strome, Kubalik, and one of the goalies. God, this just gets better and better. Watch this team have to be forced to trade Connor Murphy merely to open up cap space to continue to run in place.
Maybe there’s a thought that seeing one of the “Core Five” dispatched to the land of wind and ghosts will get the other four to contemplate their future. Maybe now everyone realizes the Hawks completely borked this “rebuild on the fly” and Keith and Kane would reconsider playing elsewhere to avoid a total teardown, such as it would be with them still around. You could still get things for them. You say Kane’s contract is immovable but any team that seriously considered trading for Taylor Hall and extending him was looking at something bigger than Kane’s cap number. It’s possible, if not likely.
It’s a mess, and while the Hawks have removed the mess from the ice at least, they’re hardly out of it altogether.