Before there was Corey Crawford, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and two Stanley Cup titles in four seasons, there was Brent Seabrook.
His first season in the NHL was in 2005, when he debuted along with some kid named Duncan Keith.
Back then, people didn't show up to see the Chicago Blackhawks. Back then, the team was considered one of the most poorly operated in all of professional sports, let alone the NHL.
The franchise slowly started to turn itself around via the draft though, and Seabrook was among its first outstanding selections.
Since '05, Keith and Seabrook have been the defensive backbone of a Blackhawks team that has gone from among the NHL's worst to a borderline dynasty.
That turnaround isn't lost on Seabrook, who recently spoke to the Chicago Tribune about the early trials and tribulations that came with being a Blackhawk before all the cake and watermelon: "It's been great seeing this franchise turn around with what we've been able to do and the changes that have gone on up top and just learning from them about being a winner and doing everything the right way."
When people talk about Chicago's outstanding defense, the conversation typically begins with Keith. That's fair since he's among the league's best defensemen. Yet any successful defender will tell you that whatever they do wouldn't be possible without and outstanding partner.
Despite playing on some pretty lousy Chicago teams early in his career, the Tsawwassen, British Columbia, native only has one minus season to his credit, according to the official Blackhawks page.
He's a career plus-87 played and counting and recently played in his 600th NHL contest. Seabrook is gearing up to represent Canada in the Olympics for the second time, and at 28 years old, he's just entering his prime as a blueliner.
While he has always been an anchor in his own end, he's starting to come alive in the offensive zone as well.
Ask any Detroit Red Wing fan about Seabrook's ability to impact a game offensively, and they'll shudder. After all, it was him who ended Detroit's season in 2013 by scoring the Game 7 overtime winner.
The abrasive and aggressive Seabrook is rounding out his overall presence quite well.
Coach Joel Quenneville had this to say to the Tribune about Seabrook's developing offensive game:
He's had a real good approach to this season. He got better conditioned (and) lost some weight, (so) he looks quicker and looks like he's in the right place. He also adds a little dimension to our team on the offensive side of things. We like what he brings to our team.
Some defenders might be satisfied with themselves as the most physically dominating player on a team like the Blackhawks.
Not Seabrook though.
He continues to work on the finer points of the game, and there isn't a team in the NHL that wouldn't use Seabrook in its top pairing. Without Seabrook closing gaps on the opposition and being a rock on the blue line, it's unlikely that the Hawks would be where they are today.
With a team chock full of continual All-Star candidates, don't expect Seabrook to suddenly start grabbing for the spotlight though. He's content to just play his simple game from the back end. He'll stand a guy up whenever he has the chance and play more than 22 minutes on a nightly basis all while very rarely missing a game.
Seabrook isn't just the most underrated player on the Blackahwks now. He's the most underrated defenseman in the game today.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!