OTTAWA, Ontario —As morning skates wind down, coach Joel Quenneville quickly skates around the rink and informs that night’s healthy scratches that they won’t be in the lineup. It’s something he’s done thousands of times in his coaching career.
Tuesday morning was a little different.
“He just told me I wasn’t playing,” Brent Seabrook said.
It’s one thing to scratch Tomas Jurco. It’s quite another to scratch the heart and soul of three Stanley Cup championship squads, a man who is fifth all-time in games played for the Blackhawks. But the simple fact is Quenneville believed that Jordan Oesterle, Connor Murphy, Michal Kempny, Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta(who carry a combined cap hit of $7.195 million)have played better than Seabrook (who has a cap hit of $6.875 million, with six more years left on that contract).
Duncan Keith is now the only Hawks defenseman who hasn’t been a healthy scratch this season.
“We’ve had eight defensemen all year, and six of them have all missed games,” Quenneville said before Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. “A lot of times, some guys aren’t deserving when they do sit out. We felt that the other guys were deserving of playing tonight’s game and we think it [will be] a very limited experience for [Seabrook] tonight. We expect him to get back in there.”
Seabrook, who has played 964 regular-season games and 123 playoff games for the Hawks dating back to 2005-06, obviously wasn’t thrilled about the decision. But in a brief conversation with the Sun-Times, he didn’t complain or lament his situation.
“It’s tough, but you’ve just got to stay focused,” he said. “And when I get a chance to be back in the lineup, I’ve got to be ready to go.”
Seabrook, who five times has played all 82 games in a season and three times missed just one game, dismissed the idea that a regular rotation could be beneficial for the Hawks’ older players, saying, “I don’t think I need rest.”
Seabrook has been playing mostly with Murphy this season. At 32 years old, his footspeed is an issue, but his veteran savvy, smart positioning and big shot have allowed him to remain valuable. After a particularly rough start to the season, Seabrook had a solid stretch when Quenneville cut back on his minutes. He was back over 20 minutes a night for much of December, but played season lows of 15:53 and 15:49 against Vegas and Edmonton the last two games.
He has one goal and 10 assists in 41 games.
“I think I’ve had ups and downs,” Seabrook said. “I want to get back to being more consistent. I think I’ve had good stretches and bad stretches.”
This is the second time this season Quenneville has sat a franchise icon. Patrick Sharp, in a much different situation with just a $1-million contract after two years in Dallas, has been in and out of the lineup for the past few weeks.
“It’s not easy when you make those kinds of decisions,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got a lot of balance back there [on the blue line] and some guys who are playing well. Guys that have had the experience and have been a big part of [the team’s success], that certainly comes into the decision.”
Seabrook is in just the second year of an eight-year contract worth $55 million. His actual salary this season is a whopping $9 million. And with a full no-movement clause and that kind of cap hit, Seabrook isn’t going anywhere.
Other than the press box. For one night, at least.
NOTES: Cody Franson cleared waivers and was assigned to Rockford. The Hawks then called up Erik Gustafsson, once again giving them eight defensemen. Jurco joined the team in Ottawa but will be a healthy scratch against the Senators. Quenneville said John Hayden was sent to Rockford to get more playing time and become more comfortable with the puck.
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