Brent Seabrook has been benched before. Few players, even among the Blackhawks’ vaunted core, have avoided Joel Quenneville’s ire completely. But it hasn’t happened often.
In fact, you need to go back nearly four years to find a situation similar to the one Seabrook found himself in Friday night against Carolina, when he spent the final six minutes of a one-goal game on the bench. Seabrook played just 15 minutes, 52 seconds against the Hurricanes — his lowest (not counting in-game injuries) since March 18, 2013, when he was benched for much of the second period after being burned for a shorthanded goal against Colorado.
Seabrook played 18:08 in Sunday’s win over Nashville, but that’s still far below his season average of more than 22 minutes per game. He was back up to 21:29 in Tuesday’s win over Detroit.
“I thought he had a great start to the season, defended well, [got] involved in the offense and shot off the point,” Quenneville said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Defensively, when he’s playing his best, he’s killing plays, going to people quickly, and [making] quick outlet passes. … We’d like to see him get back to that.”
Seabrook had two goals and nine assists, with a plus-10 rating, in the first 19 games of the season. In the 22 games since, he has no goals and 10 assists, with a minus-11 rating. Perhaps most alarming, Seabrook — who has one of the biggest shots on the team — is on pace for just 117 shots on goal this season. He had 167 a season ago, and 181 the season before that.
“Certain guys need to play, and certain guys get consideration to be out of the lineup, and we’ve [made] that group five-deep at some point over the course of 40-something games,” Quenneville said. “Seabs is a regular player. We want him playing, and we want him being confident out there. He provides leadership for us, as well, and his minutes are always valuable for us. We want to get him at that level we saw earlier in the year.”
Hawks-Wings hasn’t meant as much since Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 season. And with the Wings well out of the playoff picture (second-to-last in the East with 39 points), some of the juice is missing from the rivalry.
“I still think you can always rekindle that rivalry instantly, with the pace they play at and the familiarity,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s the importance of the game or just playing these guys, there’s always meaning there. It was our best rival for years, but there’s still something there.”
Marcus Kruger, who suffered a right hand injury in Carolina on Dec. 30, is still on the same three-week timetable, Quenneville said. That would put his return around the three-game homestand starting on Jan. 22.
Contributing: Mark Potash