Blackhawks struggling to adjust to new reality without Brent Seabrook

The defenseman, ruled out for the season, leaves a small hole in the on-ice product but an enormous hole in the locker room.

SHARE Blackhawks struggling to adjust to new reality without Brent Seabrook

Brent Seabrook’s on-ice role with the Blackhawks had declined in recent years, perhaps partially as a result of the hindrances of his nagging injuries, but his off-ice personality remained vital.

AP Photos

Captain Jonathan Toews nodded across the Blackhawks’ dressing room in the direction of the locker of veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook, who has been a mainstay for nearly every minute of Toews’ career.

And he saw only an empty seat.

‘‘I was just thinking that this morning [is] day one, pretty much, that he’s not around,’’ Toews said Friday. ‘‘You notice it right away. He’s one of those vocal guys that sits in here and the lounge and everywhere you go. He’s one of the biggest talkers and social guys in the room that brings a lot of energy every day. You miss his presence, for sure.’’

At the same time, Seabrook was having surgery on his right shoulder. It was the first of three surgeries — the latter two will be on each hip — in a two-month span that will keep him out for at least the rest of this season.

After 15 years of pushing through virtually every challenge hockey has thrown his way, Seabrook’s extended absence is so startling, so unusual, that he practically was eulogized by many Hawks.

‘‘He meant a lot to this team,’’ said center Kirby Dach, who is living with Seabrook and his family during his rookie season. ‘‘To see him going down this path, it sucks. At the same time, he also needs to take care of his body.

‘‘The biggest thing, when you’re done playing, is how your teammates are going to remember you, and Brent is going to obviously be remembered as a great hockey player but an even better teammate and friend.’’

The past tense Dach used raised many eyebrows on social media and sparked talk that Seabrook might be thinking his surgeries are career-ending. Indeed, a permanent stay on long-term injured reserve could help the Hawks escape without punishment the four years left on Seabrook’s enormous contract.

But the Hawks have insisted multiple times since announcing Seabrook’s and fellow defenseman Calvin de Haan’s season-ending surgeries Thursday that Seabrook’s career isn’t in jeopardy.

Coach Jeremy Colliton said Friday he was told Seabrook would be ready for training camp next season, and the Hawks later reported Seabrook’s surgery went smoothly.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Hawks won’t miss his outspoken personality and 1,114 games of experience in the next four months.

‘‘He’s really good at getting to know everyone, including everyone, being able to connect with everyone,’’ wing Patrick Kane said. ‘‘There’s a lot of different personalties in the room and guys from different areas of the world, and he’s able to connect with everyone.’’

That affability — taken for granted by the other members of the Hawks’ core in the last 15 years — will be tough for anyone to replace, even if Seabrook’s 18-minutes-a-night role (the lowest season average of his career), 41.5 percent scoring-chance ratio (worst among team defensemen) and four points in 32 games won’t be. And it’s likely those struggles were affected by his shoulder and hip problems.

‘‘We sit beside each other in every locker room, [and] it’s different not having him on the bus and things like that,’’ defenseman Duncan Keith said.

‘‘But there’s nothing we can do about it now. He’s battled through these injuries for a long time. Anybody else, they probably would have been missing a lot more time than that over the course of the last several seasons. Shows the mentality and the type of person that he is.’’

The Latest
For months, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has failed to finalize the regulatory rules required by the law that was passed last summer to enable more dentists to treat patients at free dental clinics.
In mere synopsis, “Swing State” sounds — as do many of Gilman’s plays when abbreviated to plot points — heavy, potentially grim and more about provoking thought than providing entertainment.
Judge tied the AL record with his 61st homer on Wednesday. Maris Jr. earlier said he considers Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds home run totals to be illegitimate. “I think most people do.”
The Sun-Times’ experts offer their picks for the Bears’ game Sunday at the Giants:
A man was shot and killed Wednesday night in the 3800 block of West Gladys Avenue.