No one thought much about it when veteran Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was declared out for the season in late December. The Blackhawks were not looking like a playoff team at the time and the aged and battered Seabrook was not going to be the difference between a postseason spot or not. Seabrook proceeded to have three separate surgeries – his right shoulder and each hip – and was expected to be ready to begin the 2020-21 season.
However, the extended pause in the league season due to COVID-19 has changed everything for the Blackhawks and Seabrook. Chicago was the final team in the Western Conference to qualify for the league’s expanded postseason and will have a chance to win a playoff spot in a “knockout round” match-up with the Edmonton Oilers later this summer. Meanwhile, Seabrook has had ample down time to rehab his injuries and has now resumed skating, reports Scott Powers of The Athletic. Powers rights that the next step would be for Seabrook to be cleared for contact, after which he could potentially join the Blackhawks for training camp, set to begin later this month.
Of course, actually being selected as one of the defensemen to play for Chicago in the qualifying round and beyond is a whole other issue entirely for the 35-year-old Seabrook. The veteran has not looked like himself for several years now and his four points in 32 games and career-low ice time this season implies that cracking the starting lineup may be an uphill battle even if Seabrook is completely healthy. With Calvin de Haan, similarly ruled out for the season but recently cleared to return, joining top-six regulars Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy, Adam Boqvist, Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek, Chicago’s starting defense may already be set. This also doesn’t include AHL depth options and the possibility that top defense prospect Ian Mitchell could also be in the mix.
Nevertheless, Seabrook will still work toward being cleared for action and could play an important locker room role and serve as valued depth at the very least for Chicago. The team will need all the help they can get to upset Edmonton and a tuned-up and refreshed Seabrook is just as likely as anyone to be that potential surprise x-factor in the qualifying round series, made even more surprising by the previous expectation that his season was over.