Blackhawks training camp has been like a game of musical defensemen.
Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan, one of the team’s most reliable defensive pairs early in the season, were back on the ice together Friday at Fifth Third Arena after both missed much of camp. But their reunion will be short-lived.
The Hawks have a day left in Chicago before they fly to Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday for their best-of-five NHL play-in series against the Oilers, but Seabrook won’t be joining them.
“I talked to (general manager) Stan (Bowman) yesterday — I’m not going to be going,” Seabrook told reporters in a Zoom call. “Not sure if I’m supposed to make that announcement or not. But my main focus was to come here to play and to see how I felt and get up to speed as fast as I could.”
Seabrook, 35, was a mainstay during the Hawks’ nine consecutive playoff appearances — including three Stanley Cup runs — from 2009-2017.
Here’s more on the Seabrook development and other observations from camp.
1. Brent Seabrook made the decision to stay in Chicago — it wasn’t a roster snub.
The Hawks, like all teams in the NHL qualifiers, can take up to 31 players to their hub city, and coach Jeremy Colliton told reporters Seabrook removed himself from consideration.
“He’s got years of experience and Stanley Cups and that pedigree that come playoff time, it’s nice to have around,” Colliton said. “Certainly that’ll be somewhat of a void. At the same time, we have a bunch of guys who have won a Cup and know what it takes and will show the way.”
Seabrook felt “100%” that it was a realistic goal to think he could recover from two hip surgeries and shoulder surgery in time to help the Hawks take on the Oilers in the series that starts Aug. 1.
“I wouldn’t have been here if I didn’t think I could play,” he said. “No. 1, I’m taking a spot; No. 2, I’m away from my family. I just don’t feel comfortable yet, as comfortable as I want to feel on the ice.
“It’s definitely coming, but ... looking back now, it was good for me to see where I’m at and see what I still have to work on and the things I have to get better at and stronger with and continue to heal to be ready for camp next year.”
2. Seabrook says he still can be an ‘impact’ player — if he gets the ice time.
At the risk of reading between the lines, Seabrook sounded as if he strongly disagreed with his usage during the season when was a healthy scratch.
“I don’t think I was playing bad,” Seabrook said. “I think I was playing well enough to play the games. He obviously saw something in me that he didn’t like.”
The 35-year-old insisted he’s still one of the team’s best defensemen, and “if given the chance and given the opportunities that some guys get, then I would definitely be able to live up to those expectations and exceed them. I’ve done it my whole career.”
“A lot of people want to make a lot of my contract and my age, and if given the opportunity and feeling like a big part of the team on the ice, you’ll get everything I’ve got,” said Seabrook, who has worked with his own skating coach and physical therapist in Canada. “I’ve got lots left.”
Whether that’s with the Hawks next season is up to Bowman and Colliton, he said.
“I know that I can be an impact player on a hockey club,” Seabrook said “This time off has reenergized me to be better.”
3. Brent Seabrook, Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy were incredibly candid about their injuries.
Seabrook injured his right shoulder during his rookie eason with the Hawks in 2005-06, and working with doctors to strengthen it, he hoped to buy another 10 years out of it.
“We ended up getting 15 — I don’t know how many of those were good — but we ended up getting 15 out of it,” he said. “It progressively got worse.”
Head team physician Michael A. Terry performed an MRI, and “the alarming thing to me was there were two separate issues (that) he couldn’t tell me if they needed to be fixed until he was in my shoulder,” Seabrook said. “He ended up fixing one and leaving the other alone.”
Pain in his shoulder, back and hips cost him a lot on and off the ice, Seabrook revealed.
“Sleeping on it has been tough,” he said. “Getting out of bed — probably more information than you need — but sitting on the toilet. Playing with my kids, it’s just been hard to get on the ground, and that’s been going on for five or 10 years.”
Now, he feels “incredible.”
“It’s been really weird the last two or three months, when I get out of my bed, remembering how hard it was to do certain things,” Seabrook said. “I still catch myself not wanting to do something too quick because I still remember that.”
During his recuperation, he has learned to appreciate the kinds of everyday activities most people take for granted.
“Getting down and helping my kids tie their shoes has been nice; tie my own shoes has been nice. Put on a sock,” Seabrook said.
De Haan is another hard-luck case. He has had three right shoulder surgeries in as many years but hopes the one in December stabilizes it for good.
“This procedure was done differently than some other ones that I’ve had in the past,” he said. “Essentially they just put an internal brace inside your body.”
De Haan said the injuries have been frustrating but something out of his control.
“It’s not like me trying to block a shot or put my body on the line,” he said. “It’s just an unfortunate angle that I seem to come down on my body. It’s just kind of bad luck, to be honest. No one wants to be injured.
“Hopefully this is behind me. I’ve suffered enough.”
Murphy has taken it easy the latter part of camp this week, sometimes skating on his own and taking part in some drills.
“I tweaked my groin in one of the first few days,” he said. “It was just one of things when I was trying to get up to full speed or do a sprint, the fast twitch of the groin didn’t feel too good.”
Murphy said he has been careful not to rush back to full speed and undo the progress he has made.
“Just ramping up as much as I can be and trying to be safe and not overdoing it,” he said. “But I definitely hope I will be good enough to play when the first games come.”
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