The Chicago Blackhawks signed defenseman Brent Seabrook to a five-year, $29 million contract extension two seasons ago. With three years still to go on the deal, have we seen the best of Seabrook at age 28?
Let's hope not.
I was quick to tout Seabrook as the team's top dog on the blue line in the 2011-12 season, the first year on his extension. It's hard to make that same claim after this past season.
Duncan Keith's longtime mate on defense had his moments while his Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. That said, there were many times when Seabrook bore little resemblance to the player who earned the big bucks not so long ago.
Some big goals in the playoffs certainly take some of the stink off of Seabrook's 2012-13 campaign. However, to say he had an up-and-down regular season is not a stretch.
In 47 games, Seabrook's scoring numbers weren't bad. The guy had eight goals to go with a dozen assists. In a full season, he may well have eclipsed his offensive numbers from the season before.
At times, however, Seabrook appeared to be dragging something behind him on the ice. His time on ice was down nearly three minutes per game from 2011-12. In fact, his 21:59 time on ice was his lowest since 2007-08 by a wide margin.
Some of that can be credited to a deeper defensive unit than the past two seasons. It also has to be said that his minutes were down in part to what he was doing on the ice.
Seabrook is a big presence on defense and was by far the back end's most physical player. It's also a fact that he has taken more than his share of knocks in recent seasons.
Seabrook has suffered multiple concussions in the course of his eight-year NHL career. Sooner or later, big hits can catch up. Even nowadays, a player's performance can drop off as he approaches his 30s.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into his performance. On the other hand, Seabrook is carrying a cap hit of $5.8 million. A Stanley Cup softens the blow but isn't a free pass to coast through the last three years of his contract.
Do I expect a lot out of Seabrook? You bet. Nick Leddy's performance ebbed and flowed last season, but he isn't the established veteran Seabrook is.
Seabrook and Keith are the anchors of the defense. Last season wasn't the type of consistent excellence the 'Hawks received from Seabrook. It may not have been a terrible season, just not up to the standard he has set.
A short offseason isn't going to make it easier on Seabrook, but there is hope that he can rebound in 2013-14. He is still a young man as well as a new dad.
While we're on it, enough about the "Seven" handle with which he tagged his newborn son. It's a middle name, for crying out loud.
Hopefully Seabrook can return to form starting with training camp next month. He is a big part of the team's veteran leadership and at his best is still capable of playing shutdown hockey in tandem with Keith.
The question is this—have we seen the best of Brent Seabrook?