The 2022 Induction Class gave their speeches at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night. It was a class loaded with Swedes and Canucks, with the Sedin brothers, Roberto Luongo and Daniel Alfredsson headlining a terrific group of inductees.
Now we can turn our attention to the potential inductees for 2023. Of course I’m going to continue chirping about Steve Larmer, but there are two notable former Blackhawks who are eligible for the first time next year. I’m going to focus on one of them here, because I believe there’s a strong enough case that Brent Seabrook needs to have a long conversation about his candidacy.
Seabrook was the 14th overall pick in the legendary 2003 NHL Draft. His career might be taken for granted by many outside of Chicago who point to Duncan Keith’s individual accolades as the rock of the Blackhawks’ blue line, but those of us who watched the team know the value Seabrook brought every single night.
I submit that Seabrook would have been a captain in at least 20 other NHL cities during his career, but he took a back seat to Jonathan Toews when it came to letters on sweaters. Many of us will remember forever when Seabrook didn’t take a back seat to anyone — one specific playoff series against the Red Wings. When Toews took a penalty and was clearly frustrated, Seabrook talked him down. He then came out and hit the overtime game-winning goal that sent the Wings to the Eastern Conference for good.
Seabrook’s resume is worthy of a long look. I argue it’s good enough for him to be inducted.
Between making his NHL debut at the start of the 2005-06 season and the end of the 2018-19 season, no defenseman in the entire NHL skated in more games than Seabrook (1,082). For what it’s worth, Keith ranks second (1,077). In that window of time, Seabrook ranks ninth among all NHL defensemen with 360 assists and 14th with an even 100 goals scored. His 290 even-strength points rank eighth among defensemen, eight behind Zdeno Chara (who most consider a Hall of Fame lock).
In the playoffs, Seabrook was money. Between the 2005-06 and 2018-19 seasons, Seabrook appeared in 123 playoff games. His 39 even-strength points ranks third behind Keith, Kris Letang and Chara — all of whom appeared in more postseason games than Seabrook.
Seabrook has three Stanley Cup championship rings at home. That means something. And his numbers support consideration when compared to his contemporaries. But let’s take a step back and place Seabrook’s career in the context of the history of the Original Six franchise for which he played.
Only three players have appeared in more total games for the Blackhawks than Seabrook (1,114): Stan Mikita, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane.
The only skater who appeared in at least 250 games to average more ice time per night than Seabrook (21:56) is Keith (the NHL started tracking this in 1997-98).
The NHL started tracking hits in Seabrook’s first NHL season. He accumulated 2,137 — the most of any Blackhawks player. Second? Bryan Bickell with 814. That’s a HUGE difference.
The NHL also started tracking blocked shots in Seabrook’s rookie year. He piled up 1,998 — also the most of any Blackhawks player. Keith is second (1,896) and Niklas Hjalmarsson is third (1,186).
And, contrary to what the end of his career might make some want to believe, Seabrook was incredibly durable — to the point he needed multiple surgeries that ultimately ended his playing career. With the exception of the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Seabrook appeared in at least 78 regular season games for 12 straight (complete) seasons.
He was a warrior for the Blackhawks. He was a leader. He produced, he was relied on and he came through time after time.
But let’s not ignore his international contributions. Seabrook helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2004 World Juniors, and was back on the blue line for Canada’s star-studded 2010 Winter Olympic team that also won gold. So he has strong play representing his country on his resume as well.
Looking at the first-year eligible players for next year, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist figures to be the only lock to get in. But the committee that votes should look at Seabrook’s entire body of work and what he meant to the Blackhawks when considering his candidacy.
Brent Seabrook should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.