It’s the dead time for Hawks coverage now. There’s almost no chance of a deal or signing now. The convention is over, so we sit and wait six weeks for training camp. Or five weeks for Travers City, depending on how thirst the desert of hockey summer has made you. So it’s these human interest-like stories on Brent Seabrook that you’re going to get before we basically adjourn.
The thing is, we’ve read this story before. Seabrook already got the best-shape-of-his-life treatment last training camp, and now everyone is trying to walk that one back saying a second summer with Paul Goodman will lead to the shape he was supposedly in last fall. It’s getting harder and harder to keep track. We’ll circle back to this.
Mark Lazerus goes to talk to Seabrook (a risk in itself), and Jeremy Colliton, and Paul Goodman, and Stan Bowman. And all of that is reasonable. It’s what they say that I quarrel with.
“It looked to me like it was difficult for him,” Colliton said to me during a quiet moment at the convention. “You play one way for so long, and you’re just used to a certain style of coach, of system, all those things. It’s hard to change your habits on the fly. You end up thinking instead of reacting. And we just didn’t have enough practice time. You need a week or two weeks to get things in, or even just three days of practice. And we just didn’t have it. Once the schedule lightened up (the Blackhawks played 33 games in Colliton’s first 66 days as head coach), you saw the change in our play. We were much better. We’ve just got to spend time on it. And now we have that time.”
Some of that may in fact be true. But the overriding factor here is that no matter what shape Seabrook finds himself in, the “system” Colliton wants to employ is never going to suit him. If indeed Colliton wants his guys chasing forwards all over the zone instead of passing them off when they go high or leaving them be in the corner and boards, Seabrook is never going to be able to do that. In fact, neither will de Haan or Maatta, come to think of it. Seabrook can know and be as comfortable with the system as he likes, it will never mean he’s built for it. Unless Colliton is going to tweak this and let Seabrook play a game where things more come to him, it’s just not going to work. It’s not what Seabrook can do. I’m not sure it was ever what Seabrook could do.
Still, Colliton’s assertion that Seabrook got better in the back half of the season holds some truth. Both shots against and goals-against per 60 were down for Seabrook in the second half of the season from the first. But the attempts against and expected goals against were up, and by bigger margins than the others were down. Essentially he got bailed out by better goaltending and worse marksmanship. Colliton may have a nugget here, but he does not have a foothold.
The next section goes to Goodman, and even I would have to admit that working with one guy your whole life another can be an adjustment, as Seabrook did with his trainers. Still, we were remarking as far back as 2013 and especially ’13-’14 how sluggish Seabrook looked. We blamed the former on not playing during the lockout. We really bent over backwards (just wheel posed) to explain the following campaign away by citing the shortest summer possible, though as the Kings were slicing and dicing him into paste even that felt hollow. Still, it’s been at least three seasons where Seabrook has looked off the pace, and one summer just isn’t going to change that in his mid-30s. I mean, Goodman seems pretty sure it will, and I guess he knows more about it than anyone.
But that won’t fix a system meant for the exact opposite of Seabrook’s game.
Even Bowman was getting in on Seabrook’s physical condition, which tells you just how much of a problem everyone thought it was. From there we get all the normal rigamarole about leadership and his voice in the room, and that’s not to be totally discounted.
But what they really mean is that they need Seabrook on Colliton’s side, which we’ve already labored. Duncan Keith has already declared Colliton an idiot. Jonathan Toews will always try and make anything work because he’s the captain. Patrick Kane is harder to read, but is at least somewhat placated by getting 25 minutes per night. It’s not that Kane doesn’t care about whether the Hawks win or lose, but that’s a salve either way. It almost feels like Seabrook is a deciding vote. They have to have his back. Because even Toews isn’t going to try and swim against everyone else in the dressing room.
And then where would they be?