Another exciting week in the NHL. Unfortunately, there was some sad news as Brent Seabrook decided to retire due to injury. I’ll provide some context and honor him as he deserves to be honred. I’ll also touch on a few other important honors as well as a horribly tone-deaf coaching hire.
1. Brent Seabrook Retires from Hockey
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The Blackhawks really have had a way of dominating the headlines the last few weeks. Unfortunately, this week it’s not positive news. Last week, longtime Blackhawks’ defensemen, Brent Seabrook, announced he is retiring from hockey due to injury. You can read quotes from Seabrook and from members of the Blackhawks’ organization here.
Seabrook had become a bit of pariah over the last few seasons. His play had fallen off a cliff but his cap hit was extraordinarily high. The timing didn’t help, as many of the Hawks’ players began to show signs of aging and they didn’t have enough cap space to sign better players. Seabrook’s play began to seriously decline during the 2017-18 season, his age 32 season. A lot of players begin to decline when they hit their thirties, but most aren’t in the second year of an eight-year contract with a $6.875 million AAV. It was bad news on every level.
You never want to see a player retire due to injury, especially one as beloved as Seabrook. However, I think this will help the fans remember him in a fonder light, as the Blackhawks won’t be hampered by the remaining three-plus years of his contract. Seabrook will no doubt be placed on long-term injured reserve, which doesn’t count against the salary cap.
Seabrook should still go down in history as one of the better players to play in Chicago. He played over 1,000 games, scored over 100 goals, and tallied more than 400 points during his 15-year career. Seabrook was also a key cog in each of the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup victories. He made one All-Star Game and won an Olympic Gold Medal with Canada.
My hat is off to Seabrook for a tremendous career in Chicago. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to get one last send-off with fans in the United Center.
2. Sutter Hired in Calgary
On Thursday, Geoff Ward got the axe as the coach of the Flames and Darryl Suter was hired as his replacement. The move was made as the Flames are currently (as of Saturday night) two points behind Montreal for a spot in the playoffs. They’re a team that’s built to win now and not making the playoffs is not an option. This will be Sutter’s second stint with the Flames. He coached the team from 2002-2006, going 107-73-15-15 in 210 games. That includes a trip to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals where the Flames fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7.
Sutter is a rather enigmatic figure in the hockey world. On one hand, he’s led two teams to the Stanley Cup Finals, winning two Stanley Cups during his tenure with the Kings. On the other, he’s a noted hot head that’s been reported to have assaulted one of his players in the past.
As I was doing research for this take, I found that article linked above. I’m baffled that Sutter was named coach by the Flames; the same Flames that were in the center of an abuse controversy with former coach Bill Peters. It was only after Peters resigned when many other former players spoke out about the abuse they had suffered at the hands of the coaches that were supposed to be leading them, Sutter included.
This is a terrible look for the Flames. You’d think after what happened with Peters, they would attempt to hire coaches without a checkered past when it comes to behavior towards players. I’d think it would be the minimum. They went right back to the well with Sutter’s hiring. I don’t understand why NHL teams recycle the same old 10-15 coaches each time one gets fired. I’d like to see more opportunities for new voices behind the bench, especially diverse voices. This is why nothing changes because organizations continue to keep the same people around, never providing opportunities for those that can make real change on and off the ice.
3. Zajac Notches 1,000 Games
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Travis Zajac has earned his silver stick after playing his 1,000th NHL game. He’s played a few more now, as this happened a few weeks ago, but I wanted to give him his due. Zajac has played his entire career with the team that drafted him, the New Jersey Devils.
Zajac has had a solid career, which has been overshadowed but the lack of success the Devils have had during his tenure. He did help the team reach the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2012. However, he’s only played 57 career postseason games. He might not have won any trophies or made any All-Star teams, but Zajac has had a nice career.
As of Sunday night, he’s scored 197 goals, notched 339 assists, for a total of 536 points. He’s one of the better Devils of all-time. He’s currently fourth in Devils’ history in goals, fifth in assists, and third in points.
I’m not sure if his number will be retired by New Jersey, but he earned his silver stick and deserves the recognition that comes with it.
4. Craziness in Overtime
3-3 overtime is one of the best parts of NHL hockey. Last Friday, the Blackhawks and Lightning gave us a treat with one of the wildest sequences of hockey I’ve seen in a bit.
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When someone says they don’t like hockey, show them this clip. There’s nothing that can make you hold your breath quite like OT hockey. Where one minute a team can look like they’re about to score to end the game, then the other team wins the game at the opposite end a mere seconds later.
This sequence only lasted 90 seconds, but it included seven, prime scoring chances, a few by future Hall of Famers. You don’t see that every day.
Sadly, none of those shots were buried. The Blackhawks went on to win in a shootout. Those 90 seconds are why we watch, constantly idling between holding your breath and having it taken away at a moment’s notice.
5. Barzal Scores Goal of the Year
If I can provide anything for my readers, it’s showing you my favorite highlights from the past week. The best highlight I saw last week, and perhaps this season, is this goal from Matt Barzal.
This goal is downright dirty. Going one on one with one of the league’s fastest players isn’t ideal. Unfortunately, that was the case for Rasmus Ristolainen on this play. Barzal gets the puck just ahead of Buffalo’s blue line and then tips it forward. He beats Ristolainen in a foot race and makes him look silly as he falls to the ice. Barzal isn’t done yet. He dekes left to move Carter Hutton and then brings the puck back to shoot through his legs to his right.
I would put this goal right up there with Tomáš Hertl’s goal against the Rangers.
What do you all think? Let me know in the comments! ■