A year ago, before Brent Seabrook signed a long contract extension with the Chicago Blackhawks, he was considered a potential target for the Edmonton Oilers. With Chicago’s early playoff exit and Edmonton’s continuing need for help on the right side, this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday seemed like a good chance to ask our readers whether they would still be interested in the player.
The case for adding Seabrook is pretty straight-forward.
Seabrook has been a key piece in three Stanley Cup wins and five deep playoff runs with the Chicago Blackhawks. He ranked second on the team’s blue line in overall ice-time this season and was the club’s No. 3 defender at even-strength. If he can do that in Chicago, the reasoning goes, he should certainly be capable of stepping into a more significant role in Edmonton.
There are a couple of potential problems with that argument.
Age & Contract
Seabrook turned 31 last week. Next year is the first in his contract extension, an eight-year pact with an annual cap hit of $6.875 million per season.
Seabrook next year is probably going to be a little bit worse than Seabrook this season was. Seabrook the year after that will be worse still. An eight-year pact offers the opportunity to project his performance slightly downward eight times, and that’s optimistically assuming that the bottom doesn’t fall out entirely at some point, as it has with other players.
The Fayne Comparison
This to me is a fascinating chart.
Mark Fayne, last season, played tougher minutes than Brent Seabrook. He spent a higher percentage of his time out against top lines. He started a much lower percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone and he started a much higher percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone.
Fenwick is the total percentage of shots and missed shots that occur at five-on-five with a given player on the ice. In other words, with Seabrook on the ice for Chicago, the Blackhawks were out-shot on average by a 53-47 margin this year. With Fayne on the ice for Edmonton, the Oilers were out-shot by a 51-49 margin.
I’ve long argued that Fayne is underrated—he played brutally tough minutes and Edmonton’s results were really pretty decent when he was out there—but that’s a red flag for me. Seabrook wasn’t taking on the tough assignments at five-on-five; he was in a secondary role behind the Duncan Keith/Niklas Hjalmarsson pairing. Yet when he was on the ice the Blackhawks were badly outshot. The team was also in the red in terms of goal differential.
In Seabrook’s defence, he didn’t have a partner like Andrej Sekera this year. He and Trevor van Riemsdyk ended up working poorly together, and his other common partners were players like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg. On the other hand, he played eight hours with Patrick Kane (49% Corsi rating together; Kane was 54% away from Seabrook) and more than six hours with Jonathan Toews (48% Corsi together, Toews was 53% away from Seabrook)
To me, this is a no-brainer. Seabrook is 31 years old, signed forever, not playing the toughest minutes and Chicago’s results when he was on the ice this year were not good. The player Edmonton needs is the Seabrook of the last eight years, not the Seabrook of the next eight.