Blackhawks ‘very concerned’ about Brent Seabrook as back issue lingers

Hawks general manager Stan Bowman detailed Seabrook’s situation Sunday, providing long-awaited clarity.

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Brent Seabrook is far away from a return for the Blackhawks.

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Brent Seabrook is still far from returning from a back injury, leaving the Blackhawks “very concerned” about the 35-year-old defenseman’s accumulating ailments and physical longevity.

This back issue follows three surgeries for Seabrook last winter on his hip and shoulder, meaning he has suffered trauma to three major regions of his body since he last played an NHL game in November 2019.

Hawks general manager Stan Bowman provided long-awaited clarity on Seabrook’s situation in an interview Sunday. Is he concerned?

“We’re very concerned for him,” Bowman said. “He’s been a warrior for us. Think of his time in Chicago — he never really missed any games. But now we’re realizing he was playing through a lot of pain those years, and it’s caught up to him.

“He was dealing with his shoulders and his hips to the point where he probably should have had [the surgeries] done years ago, but that’s how he’s always been driven — to keep moving forward, don’t worry about injuries, play through it. So, yeah, we are concerned for him. We certainly hope he can get past it.”

Seabrook had largely recovered from the surgeries by last July and participated in the Hawks’ pre-playoff summer training camp.

Although he decided not to participate in the playoffs, he planned to be 100% ready for the 2020-21 season — and was on track to do so until he tweaked his back.

“It happened like a day or two before [camp last month],” Bowman said. “We had some groups of guys skating leading into camp, getting ready before the season began, and that’s when it happened. It’s unfortunate because I know he had worked hard in the offseason to be ready.”

The Hawks had been oddly mum about Seabrook over the last month, with coach Jeremy Colliton frequently turning aside questions about his status.

Much of that was because the Hawks were uncertain about how long the injury will affect Seabrook.

They’re experiencing a comparable scenario with forward Zack Smith, who underwent successful back surgery in March 2020 and expected to be ready for camp in January — then turned out not to be. Smith, like Seabrook, now sits on injured reserve.

“[Smith’s situation] was probably a similar thing to Seabrook,” Bowman said. “When you’re out for a long time, you can feel good, and you feel like you’re ready to go, and then sometimes things come up which hadn’t bothered you before.”

Thus, the Hawks are finding it difficult to determine a timeline.

“If you have a knee or a shoulder injury, like [winger Alex] Nylander’s [knee] injury, we know exactly how long it’s going to take for him to rehab and be ready,” Bowman said. “This is just different. I don’t have an idea on when he’s going to be back with us.”

Seabrook has been lightly skating on his own, but not in such a way that he’s progressing toward rejoining practices.

A veteran of 16 seasons and 1,114 games, he nonetheless has been around the Hawks quite a bit off the ice to stay connected with teammates and the coaching staff.

He was spotted last week watching a practice in dress clothes. Colliton said he remains an influential voice in the locker room.

“He’s still not afraid to speak up, whether it’s just keeping things light or whether it’s a little word here or there,” Colliton said. “[With] the experience that he has and [being] just a different voice, someone different to talk to the players and give feedback, it’s a big help.”

NOTE: The Hawks removed defenseman Adam Boqvist from the COVID-19 protocol list Monday, exactly two weeks after he was placed there, and added him back to the active roster. The Hawks’ COVID-19 list now includes only forwards Lucas Wallmark and Ryan Carpenter.

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