Brent Seabrook to undergo three surgeries, placed on long-term injury reserve

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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The Chicago Blackhawks placed defenseman Brent Seabrook on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) Thursday after announcing that Seabrook would miss the remainder of the 2019-2020 regular season. Seabrook, who helped pioneer the ‘Hawks to three Stanley Cup Championships in a five-year span between 2010 and 2015, is scheduled to undergo surgery on his right shoulder later this month before having surgery on both his right hip and left hip in January and February, respectively.  He is also expected to miss the entire 2020-2021 season.

Seabrook’s eight-year contract featured an annual $6.875 million cap hit, inciting criticism from a Blackhawks’ fan base that attributed Seabrook’s stark decline from a production standpoint as an underlying factor in the  team’s recent struggles. Seabrook, 34, observedly lost a step, no longer able to keep pace with the speed of the NHL. Once a premier NHL defenseman, Seabrook was relegated to third-pairing minutes, even accumulating healthy scratches as the 2019-2020 season progressed.

Critics of Hawks’ general manager Stan Bowman have lambasted Seabrook’s contract extension as a shortsighted attempt to reward past production. At the time of the agreement, Seabrook had already commenced his decline, a trajectory that was highlighted over the next few seasons. Once a candidate to conclude any given campaign with a plus-20 plus/minus, a statistic that measures how often a player is on the ice when his team scores against how often he or she is on the ice when their team is scored against, Seabrook has labored to an aggregate minus-3 since the start of the 2016-2017 season.

Nevertheless, watching a Stanley Cup hero operate as a caricature of his former self has been both a humbling and disconcerting experience for Hawks fans lusting for a return to relevance. Seabrook’s placement on the LTIR evokes memories of Marian Hossa, who was forced to retire prematurely due to a degenerative skin disease caused by incompatible equipment.  While Seabrook has yet to offer a definitive statement on his future, Hossa’s career-ending placement on the LTIR and the Blackhawks’ announcement regarding Seabrook contain unsettling parallels.

The Blackhawks also announced that forward Brandon Saad will miss approximately three weeks with  a right ankle injury and defenseman Calvin de Haan will undergo season-ending right shoulder surgery tomorrow.

Following the announcement, the Blackhawks’ community offered an outpouring of support for both Seabrook and de Haan. “I feel bad for Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan,” wrote Blackhawks’ senior writer Chris Kuc. “Two hardworking and respected players. Blackhawks will miss them this season.”

“Seabrook man… This dude has given all he’s got,” offered Jay Zawaski, executive producer of 670 the Score.

The Blackhawks will rely on young defenseman such as Adam Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert to shoulder the defensive burden left by Seabrook and de Haan. However, with the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes already hanging in the balance, Chicago’s front office might opt to abandon postseason aspirations in favor of player development.