Saving the best for last, Seabrook is the last of the D-men to get an evaluation on this blog. No, I am not going to evaluate Cullimore, or Boynton, or even Hendry. The first 2 are not going to be showing up anymore, and I have my questions on wether or not Hendry will. With Seabrook, he had a rough start leading into a bit of a roller coaster season, had a big signing day and ended up being the best defensemen on the defending Stanley Cup Champions. I think he also earned the right to be considered one of the best all around players for the Hawks this season. Though his last few games are suspect to a head injury (more on that in a bit), his play finished so strong that I began to wonder which #7 D-man will be remembered more in Hawk's history. I hope, just becasue Chelios didn't stick around and Seabrook brought a Cup home that it is our current #7 that goes brighter into history.
It was not all fun and games for Seabs this year. In fact, he might be the player with the largest contrast in play throughout the year and subsequently makes him harder to evaluate. I could remember him for the weeks on end when he seemed to show no care for wearing the Indian Head, produced a wide array of turnovers and failed to finish his checks. I personally found myself wondering if Seabrook gave a damn and began postulating his inevitable trade. Add to the fact that his partner's game was suffering an even worse fate and the whole situation started to smell of rotten cheese. Then his big day came, Seabs was signed for big money, more than I would have anticipated and the smell coming from Keith began to wear off of good old Brent. The big hits started coming, he figured out how to get in front of shots, started playing it safer with the puck while still making that cross ice pass from time to time ( a pass that helped the Hawks to a few wins). He started to feel comfortable with the puck again and regained his throne as the most feared Hawk to have follow you into the corner.
And yet, I still have my doubts on how to grade him. He ended up with a career high in points even with the Hawk's offense stagnant for large parts of the season. Last year he recorded 30 points, this year he nabbed 48. However, his plus minus looks like this starting from 3 years ago: +13, +23, +20, 0. Thats right, his +/- was a big fat goose egg this year. I was pretty harsh on Keith who was only a -1 and had 45 points to finish the season, so how come I feel so much better about Seabrook? the difference is how much Seabrook fixed what was obviously wrong. It could be argued given the timing that his contract negotiations were weighing on his mental capacity to play hockey. After his contract was signed I think we all saw a quick improvement. Improving your game gets you points in my book.
When Seabrook began to play better, everything looked stronger. He saw the ice better, pinched up on the D causing offensive pressure and even scored a few from doing so. His physical presence became a huge part in the Hawks surge into the standings and he finished 3rd among D in hits. To put it simply, the Hawks gained a lot when Seabrook started playing hockey again and it is the reason why they even made the playoffs. I don't remember Seabrook for his struggles this year, what I remember is how vital of a role he had as the #1 D-man on the Hawks even if he saw less ice-time than Keith. I also feel that when everything was said and done, that this season was a success in that they made the playoffs in a trying year and almost gave Luongo a reason to cry earlier than he did. The first round series went longer in part because of Seabrook.
I am sure no one has forgotten that rotten Torres hit on Seabs that sent the Hawks into a purge on all things Vancouver. That kind of reaction from a team speaks volumes about how the players respected Seabrook and looked to him throughout the season. Much like the Hornton hit later in the year that catapulted Boston to a Stanley Cup victory, Seabrooks presence both on and off the ice was a motivation for the Hawks. This adds points to his final grade. Now for the scary part. This is not the first head hit that has left Seabrook sidelined and I am sure no one saw anything near a 100% performance when he did return to that series. This might be a bigger problem than we would like to think about. These head injuries have a way of staying with you and it most likely means that he has to be protective of his condition from now on. Will that have an impact on his performance, I guess we just have to wait and see.
Final grade: A-. Coming from behind and improving is a large factor in how I hand out grades. Granted, Seabrook has all the talent in the world and he was suffering because of effort and not because of ability, but he still put together a great finish and that is clearer in the mind. He really is the whole package. He is large, steady, has great hands, a good sense of the ice, is a defensive power house, but also an offensive threat, the best well rounded D-man on the ice for the Hawks and I don't even think we have seen his best season yet. We have a bunch of players coming off of rough years which might make for a great comeback in October. I expect something near a career season for Seabrook.
Really quick before I leave and wait for comments, I wanted to mention the arbitrations that were recently scheduled, Stalberg later this month, and Campoli early next month. I highly doubt that Stalberg is awarded that much of a raise and I think given his potential that you make the deal. He won't be offered more than the Hawks can manage. I say you take that small gamble on seeing him in a consistent role where he can develop some of the areas he needs work in. Campoli will most likely be given something in the middle of what he wants and what the Hawks are offering, which shouldn't even be that great of a difference unless the Hawks are really trying to low-ball him. I am actually pretty shocked that the Hawks and the Campoli camp couldn't already reach an agreement. The assumption seems to be that Campoli wants somewhere around 3 mil which is slightly above the Montador contract. I know not everyone is on board with me yet, but I truly believe that Campoli is a top 4 defensemen on any team in the NHL. Montador might also fit into that label, but I reason that Campoli has more to offer the Hawks given their "system" of play. In the end, as long as his hit is not over 3 mil, I say sign him. One would think that Chris would want a longer term contract and that the Hawks would be able to get him for less with that in mind, but who knows. Basically, what I am trying to say is that I see Campoli as an integral part of the Hawk's success next year, but in SB's head I am not.