Chicago Blackhawks Are Looking for Answers on Defense

The further the Chicago Blackhawks go into their season, the more they show their true colors as a team. There’s room for improvement in all areas of their game, but the team’s defensive plot has thickened with some good play/bad play, injuries, call-ups, and now Brent Seabrook has been benched for two straight games. Could this be the end of an era for Seabrook in Chicago?

Brent Seabrook
Brent Seabrook (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Good News

Okay, let’s start with the good news. Calvin de Haan has fit nicely with Duncan Keith on the first pairing. They manage the puck well together and they provide a tight gap in the defensive zone. Keith is still the Blackhawks’ “iron man” and de Haan has proven that he can keep pace with him.

Defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Dennis Gilbert were brought in to fill the shoes of Connor Murphy on defense. Both are big-bodied players who have provided some physicality to the blue line, combining for 19 hits since both players returned to the lineup.

Chicago Blackhawks Slater Koekkoek
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Slater Koekkoek. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

Also, Olli Maatta has played well on the second pair and has provided a well rounded “defense-first” style. He is also a big-bodied player, with 21 hits on the season, and he puts his body on the line with 13 blocked shots.

Lack of Production on Offense

The downside to the Blackhawks defense has been their struggle to get involved in scoring chances. Sure, they have bigger, more physical players, but they lack the ability to put pucks on net, much less score. As of now, the Blackhawks defense has a combined 82 shots on goal but have only cashed in once, with a goal from Seabrook. They’re not a scoring threat, and with numbers like that, it doesn’t look like they’ll be one at any point this season.

Let’s get real, the Murphy injury is lingering to some effect, because the team just isn’t as good without him in the lineup. It’s hard to imagine that being the case but it’s true. He makes the defensive pairs more balanced and he’s missed on the penalty kill. Getting him back as soon as possible is a must for the Blackhawks.

Patrice Bergeron, Connor Murphy
Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron battles Chicago Blackhawks’ Connor Murphy for the puck (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The fact is, there’s nobody else they can turn to on defense to spark any kind of change. The Blackhawks must play the hand they’ve been dealt and hope that there are no other injuries, that they can improve each week, and, that they can create some plays in the offensive zone that are scoring chances.

The Brent Seabrook Situation

Here’s the thing, Seabrook is going to play a lot this season. Having him in the lineup makes the team better rather than having him on the bench stewing. His two-game “timeout” was probably more of a wake-up call than the need to rest him or that he hasn’t been good enough. On the other hand, it’s been discussed for some time, that may be Seabrook has lost a step or two and maybe he no longer belongs in the top four.

“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. I’m just going to try and do my thing out here, try to work hard and get back in the lineup when I can, if I can and just try and be a good teammate,”

from “Brent Seabrook, scratched again by Blackhawks, vents about “tough situation”‘ – Chicago Sun-Times, 10/29/19.

Seabrook spent the offseason working on his skating and getting into better shape for this season. It didn’t seem that he needed any “rest”, but head coach Jeremy Colliton thought a day or two off would be beneficial and marked him a healthy scratch for their recent games against the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators.

Brent Seabrook Blackhawks
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks, Nov. 9, 2017. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His recent benching and his comments about still being a good player “for somebody,” makes you wonder if his time in Chicago is up. If traded, the Blackhawks would take a major hit financially and it’s unlikely they would end up on the winning side of any deal.

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Seabrook is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, he’s beloved in Chicago, and is a leader in the locker room. It would be a shame to see things get ugly between him and the Blackhawks, but it’s a “what have you done for me lately” business and no player is above the team. In the meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ defensive woes will continue until they find some sort of consistency as they move into the heart of the season.