Brent Seabrook was part of the Canadian team that won gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games, and while the roster is likely to see plenty of turnover for the 2014 Winter Games, the Chicago Blackhawks defender should definitely be one of the players headed to Sochi to compete.
Team Canada took seven defensemen to the 2010 Winter Games.
|Dan Boyle - San Jose Sharks||Drew Doughty - Los Angeles Kings|
|Duncan Keith - Chicago Blackhawks||Scott Niedermayer - Anaheim Ducks|
|Chris Pronger - Philadelphia Flyers||Brent Seabrook - Chicago Blackhawks|
|Shea Weber - Nashville Predators|
Of those seven, only three are definite to make the 2014 roster. Both Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer are out of the game as players now, and Dan Boyle has been injured for the better part of October with concussion issues.
At 37, Boyle isn't a shoo-in to make the team either.
That leaves Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith as the three remaining locks to make Team Canada. Competing for the other three or four spots will be a slew of other defenders. That group includes Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, Alex Pietrangelo, Kris Letang, Marc Staal and Jay Bouwmeester.
Seabrook is also in that group. So what does he have that the likes of Subban and Letang can't bring to the table?
While those competing for the last couple of spots on Canada's blue line bring a ton of talent to the ice on a nightly basis, only Bouwmeester has been there before. Subban is 24, Pietrangelo is 23 and Staal is 26. None of those players have been to an Olympics, and none of them have played in a Stanley Cup Final.
While they may or may not be capable of dealing with the pressure that comes with putting on the Maple Leaf at the highest level, Seabrook has already proven that he's capable of playing in that environment.
He skated in seven games for the Canadians in 2010 and was a strong player in all three zones leading to the gold-medal victory.
The Duncan Keith Effect
It's rare for nations to be able to pluck a No. 1 defensive pairing from the NHL and slot them side by side in an international competition. The Canadians has that luxury with Keith and Seabrook. The duo has been playing together for quite some time, and are already familiar with the way they play together.
Chemistry can win or lose an Olympic tournament. If you have it, your odds of being successful increase tenfold. If Keith is likely to make the final roster (and he is) then it would only make sense to bring his super-talented defense partner as well.
Canada's brass already knows what these two bring to the ice together every night, and that is one less pairing or combination that they have to worry about moving forward.
Most of the players that are pushing for Seabrook's spot are of the offensive-defenseman breed. Subban, Pietrangelo and Letang all make their paychecks because of how well they're able to jump up in plays and act as a fourth forward.
The international ice surface is larger than the NHL's surface, and that amplifies bad defensive pinches in a big way. All three of the aforementioned defenders would be asked to modify their game in a way that would protect against breakdowns in the neutral and defensive zones.
No one would need to have that kind of conversation with Seabrook, who is an anchor on the blue line. While he'll jump in when he sees the chance, he typically stays at home while Keith sinks down into the slot for chances.
As important as puck-moving defenders are in the NHL, having a guy that can stay back and break up plays on the rush is just as important.
Underrated Offensive Ability
While Seabrook is a defense-first blueliner, he has a keen sense when it comes to pinching. Unlike Subban or Letang, who pinch more often than not to try and make things happen, Seabrook isn't a risk taker. He knows when to lurch into the offensive zone and when to drop back.
His hockey IQ is outstanding, and his offensive capabilities are evident when you look at what he's been able to do in the NHL throughout his career. Seabrook hasn't been a minus player since 2006, and he hasn't scored less than 30 points in a season for four consecutive years. (He had 20 in 2013, and would have hit 30 if there had been a full season)
All told, there isn't a defender who brings the best of both worlds to the ice like Seabrook does. There will be a lot of chatter surrounding who will make Canada's roster in the coming months, but one name that should remain from the defending medal-winning team is Seabrook.