How Brent Seabrook Performed With Various D-Partners Last Season

“Eight more years!”

“Eight more years!”

“Eight more years!”

I’m not sure how many people were chanting this last year, but Brent Seabrook is currently under contract with the Chicago Blackhawks until the year 2024 with a cap hit of $6.875 Million per year. Chicago will have eight more years of Brent Seabrook. He’s here to stay, so let’s take a closer look at his 2015-16 season.

When Brent Seabrook played with Trevor Van Reimsdyk, they put up horrible numbers. Putrid numbers. I’m talking worse pairing in the NHL like numbers. The evidence was there to split them up, but Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville continued to pair them together. Maybe Q didn’t trust any other D-man and felt like he had no other options. Maybe Q thought the bad numbers were part of a small sample and kept waiting for the pairing to improve with time. Whatever the reason, that pairing was a train wreck and it dragged Seabrook’s numbers down. If one looked at Brent’s numbers without TVR, they become more respectable. I want to show you how Seabrook did with other D-partners besides TVR. It’s something I tracked closely last season, and I want you see the full scope of Seabrook’s 2015-16 season.

In this post, I will show how Brent Seabrook performed when playing with and without his usual defensive partners. Last season, he played the most with TVR, followed by Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. I will show you four charts including, possession, shot generation, shot suppression, and time on ice. If these terms are completely foreign to you, then take a glance at my glossary page. Otherwise, let’s jump on in.

For the charts below, the blue bar will show how Seabrook performed playing with that player and the green bar will show how Seabrook performed without that player. To ease you in, let’s first look at time on ice.

Take a look at the first player Erik Gustafsson. Brent Seabrook played 305 minutes (blue bar) with Gustafsson and 1073 minutes (green bar) without him. Next, we see he played the most minutes with TVR (412 minutes). Seabrook also played 298 minutes with Svedberg and 177 minutes with Hjalmarsson. The basic format of the chart I want to drive home again is that the blue bar is how the pairing of Brent Seabrook and the player listed performed, and the green bar is how Brent Seabrook performed when on the ice with every player besides the one listed. This time on ice chart is simply a reference for which D-partners Seabrook played with the most, as well as a vessel to illustrate the chart format for the rest of this post.

Let’s take a look at possession percentage. This stat shows what team is winning the shot battle. 50% is the median Above 50 is good, while below 50 is bad.

The first thing we must look at is TVR. When Seabrook was paired with TVR, the pairing had a possession% of 41.4%. This was the worst possession% in the NHL of any D-pairing with at least 400 minutes. 41.4% possession means that opponents were taking a lot more shots than Chicago when that paring was on the ice. Shots lead to goals. Goals lead to wins. So it’s very important to control play, keep possession of the puck, and outshoot the opponents. The pairing of Seabrook-TVR was horrible at this. If we take a look at the green bar above TVR’s name, we see that when Seabrook played WITHOUT Van Reimsdyk, that Seabrook had a possession% of 50.1% which is respectable. Around 50% means that both Chicago and the Opponent are taking around the same amount of shots when Seabrook played without TVR. It’s just astonishing that there is a jump of almost 9 percentage points in Seabrook’s possession when he simply doesn’t play with TVR.

Now this doesn’t mean TVR is horrible. It was documented many times that TVR (Right shot who should play on the right side) had to play on the left side with Seabrook which was not his strong side. TVR also is more of a 3rd pairing defensemen who shouldn’t be playing on the 2nd line. I believe Van Reimsdyk is a quality 3rd pairing defensive-defensemen. He doesn’t wow with anyone thing, he’s simply solid across the board defensively. Also, TVR performed well when he wasn’t with Seabrook. This wasn’t really a case of one player completely dragging down the other. Think of it like water and oil. Together they do not mix, but when apart from each other, they each supply value. Anyway, enough about Trevor, let’s get back to the topic at hand.

When we look at Svedberg and Hjalmarsson, Seabrook put up mostly the same numbers with them as he did without them. Not much to see there.

Now take a look at how he performed with Gustafsson. 50.8% possession with him and a paltry 46.6% when playing without Gustafsson. Seabrook is aging and becoming more immobile by the year. That’s why pairing him with a mobile, puck moving defensemen like Erik Gustafsson or Brian Campbell is optimal for Seabrook’s success. More on that later. The main point to take in here is that Seabrook didn’t play horrible across the board. He played horrible with Trevor Van Reimsdyk, not very well with Svedberg or Hjalmarsson, and good with Gustafsson. The bad part is he played the most with TVR, and this really dragged down his overall numbers. Gustafsson is also an offensive defensemen compared to the other three which are all consider defensive defensemen.

Alright. Possession is basically shot generation vs shot suppression. So let’s take a closer look at each of those stats.

Here we see shot generation. Shot generation = the number of shot attempts Chicago takes for every 60 minutes that player was on the ice for. The average NHL team produces 55 shot attempts every 60 minutes of Icetime. The Gustafsson-Seabrook pairing was well above average with Chicago producing 58 shot attempts for every 60 minutes that pairing was on the ice for. TVR-Seabrook had shot generation numbers well below average. In fact, Chicago produced 47 shots/60 when they were together, compared to 58 shots/60 when Seabrook played without TVR. In English, Chicago had extremely weak numbers when the Seabrook-TVR pairing was on the ice together. Those number got a little better when Seabrook played with Hjalmarsson, were around league average when he was paired with Svedberg, and above league average when Seabrook was with Gustafsson. Again, the overall point here is to simply show how bad the Seabrook-TVR pairing was. They generated well below average offensive numbers together.

Next let’s look at the defensive side of things with shot suppression. This is the amount of shot attempts the opponent takes every 60 minutes. One wants to limit or suppress the opponents shots attempts. Because this is the opponents numbers, lower is thus better here.

The black line again shows the NHL league average as a reference point. Since lower is better, above the black line is below average & below the black line is above average. The first thing that pops out here is Brent Seabrook was below league average in shot suppression across the board. He came close to league average when playing with Gustafsson or Hjalmarsson, but still his overall shot suppression numbers are bad across all pairings.

Again, we see with the TVR-Seabrook pairing horrible shot suppression numbers. Not only was this a bad offensive pairing, they were also a bad defensive pairing as well. Again the Gustafsson-Seabrook pairing showed the most improvement in Seabrook’s numbers.

My synopsis of Brent Sebrook

First, let me caveat that the Brent Seabrook contract is horrible. He isn’t a $7M per year player now, he is already showing a decline at age 31, doesn’t play a style that ages well, & could very not be an NHL caliber player in the last couple years of that contract. That won’t matter too much, as Chicago should be in rebuild mode and in the process of tanking when Seabrook is around 37-38 years old. But we are throwing all of this out the window. No contract, no money, no future. We aren’t going to talk about it for the rest of this post. What we are going to talk about is the 2016-17 Brent Seabrook hockey player.

Some people still think Brent Seabrook is an elite hockey player. Some people think he’s one of the worst defensemen in the league. With mostly EVERYTHING in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Brent Seabrook is no longer a top pairing D-man. He shouldn’t be playing 1st or 2nd defensemen minutes. He shouldn’t be put in a defensive focused role. You see, his shot suppression numbers continue to get worse. His mobility has taken a hit and he can no longer get to the puck area as quickly as he could in his youth. He simply isn’t that good anymore at the defensive aspect of hockey. Because of this, people think he is now a horrible defensemen.

But Brent Seabrook does provide value with his offense.

Seabrook is an offensive defenseman. He has a really hard shot that provides a goal scoring threat from the backend during even strength and on the power play. His stretch passing numbers were also on par with Duncan Keith as best out of the Chicago D-men. He has great hockey sense when he gets into the offensive zone. Although he isn’t much of a playmaker in the offensive zone, his goal scoring is extremely valuable for this Blackhawks team.

So what is Brent Seabrook?

He is a 2nd pairing offensive defenseman. He should be on an offensive focused D-pairing that best allows him to provide value to the team. The Gustafsson-Seabrook pairing was just that last season. (Here’s a quick Gustafsson fun fact, he had the highest even strength assist rate among all defensemen to play at least 500 minutes.) This next season, the Brian Campbell-Seabrook pairing should be just that. Campbell being a mobile, puck moving, offensive defensemen should pair perfectly with Brent Seabrook. Oh and possession? Yeah, Brian Campbell is one of the better possession defensemen in the league. He’s not much of a goal scoring threat, but he will have Brent Seabrook across from him for that.

Now, the main argument from the “Brent Seabrook is still one of the best D-men in the game” crowd is – “Well Seabrook played with a bunch of rookies, he would be better if he was paired with better players like Duncan Keith”

Well, yes, one can say that Seabrook didn’t have the greatest crop of defensive partners last season. He also didn’t perform that well with Oduya two seasons ago. When Seabrook was elite, he was in the prime of his career and playing with DUNCAN KEITH. One can’t simply chalk last seasons numbers up to poor D-partners deflating Seabrook’s stats without admitting that playing with one of the best D-men in the league , Duncan Keith, thus inflated Seabrook’s stats in the past. If one is going to devalue his numbers last season with 3rd pairing quality D-men, then they also have to devalue when Seabrook played with the best.

Duncan Keith is elite. Elite players make those around them better. Put Duncan Keith with any Chicago defensemen and they will put up good numbers. Why? Because there is a number 1 defensemen in that pairing. Seabrook is a number 3 caliber defensemen. He isn’t going to always make his teammates better. His pairing won’t always play the best. Why? Because there is a number 3, 2nd pairing level D-man in that pairing.

Look, I’m not trying to shit all over Seabrook. Sometimes I’m extremely negative because I’m analyzing the contract Stan Bowman gave him and I’m looking at the value he gives to the team over the next eight years vs the what the team will pay him. Even though the team overvalued him, he still has value. He’s still a good hockey player. He can still help Chicago win if he is in the proper role. This season he should be in the perfect role. On a 2nd pairing with offensive focused usage and a possession savant D-partner in Brian Campbell.

Brent Seabrook is no longer an elite player, but he still provides value to the Blackhawks. Brent Seabrook is not Dan Girardi. Brent Seabrook can no longer provide defense, but he can produce offense. Dan Girardi does not provide either offense OR defense. Yes, the Brent Seabrook contract is really bad. But the hockey player can still provide value to his team. He is a 2nd pairing level offensive defensemen.

He’s not elite.

He’s not garbage.

He’s Brent Seabrook.

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