Brent Seabrook

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Defensemen

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Defensemen

The Blackhawks’ defensemen group was dealt a tough hand this season. There wasn’t much done in the offseason to bolster the most glaring need on the roster and a coaching change one month into the season forced them to play a new defensive system on the fly.

In going from a zone coverage under Joel Quenneville to man-on-man under Jeremy Colliton, the transition took a little longer than expected and was more difficult for the veteran players that had spent 10-plus years playing one way.

“I think we definitely got better the second half of the year,” Brent Seabrook said. “Jeremy coming in, changes some things up, especially defensively. For myself, I played for Joel for 10 years and the system that he wanted to play and as a defenseman, it definitely took me some time to adjust for sure.”

The Blackhawks gave up the most 5-on-5 high-danger chances per 60 minutes (13.66) this season and also ranked 31st in expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.68), according to naturalstattrick.com. Last year they were 28th in 5-on-5 high-danger chances allowed (12.09) and 26th in expected GAA (2.46). So they trended in the wrong direction.

The one bright spot was the emergence of Erik Gustafsson, who finished third among defensemen with 17 goals and sixth with 60 points. He changed life for the Blackhawks by generating offense from the back end and was a huge reason the team turned around their power play.

But the Blackhawks need to address their defensive unit this summer. A full training camp to get everyone on the same page will be crucial, but the personnel must get better as well.

"I think you need a mix," Colliton said. "We can’t all play like Gus, you know? But at the same time, we want guys who can transition the puck. If you’re able to break out clean and once you win the puck back, if you can make a tape-to-tape play and break out clean and get going the other way, then it helps you defensively, too. So if we’re looking to improve, again, it’s defending hard whether that’s up the ice at their blue line or at our blue line or getting out of D-zone, that’s probably the No. 1 priority for us now.

"And I think it’s the easiest to improve on, too. It’s just bearing down and finding a way, whether it’s defending the rush, defending the line, forcing a turnover, or in D-zone coverage, finding a way to get a stop, finding a way to create a loose puck and then winning the battle going the other way."

Grade: C-

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Blackhawks optimistic about future, but disappointed about 'lost season'

blackhawks_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks optimistic about future, but disappointed about 'lost season'

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin this week and the Blackhawks won't be participating for the second straight season after doing so in the previous nine years. And it doesn't feel right in Chicago, a city that has been so accustomed to watching their team play into May and June.

But a lot happened in the 2018-19 campaign, which featured a mid-season coaching change from the second winningest NHL coach of all-time in Joel Quenneville to 33-year-old rookie head coach Jeremy Colliton. The Blackhawks made progress over the course of the season, but there's still a lot of work to be done both roster-wise and on the ice.

The Blackhawks had their end of the season press conference on Sunday at the United Center and the mood around the room was disappointment that they won't be playing in the postseason, but optimism about being able to bounce back next season.

Here are the hightlights from the exit interviews:

General manager Stan Bowman:

"We're disappointed we're not playing in the playoffs. That's why we do this. That's the reason these guys come and do their best to put our team in the position. We came up a little bit short this year. But the feeling is much different now than it was a year ago. I think we have a clear path forward of how we're going to be better next year, and just reflecting back on this season there's been a lot of things that's been happening with the new coach coming in and our team getting adjusted to that. It took some time but when you look at the last 50 games we were playing at about a 100-point pace. That's a pretty good chunk of the schedule. It's not like a 10 or 12-game segment where we got hot.

"I think for the last 50 games we were playing like a team that could contend for the division title but we had a lot of ground to make up. The goal now is to build on that. We showed progress from a year ago until today and we expect progress again going forward. Obviously, we look at in a couple year horizon and like last year was sort of the low point we're building to where we are now and next year we expect to be even higher. We're on the right path and there's a lot of things to be excited about and some other things we need to improve and that's our job between now and training camp."

Head coach Jeremy Colliton:

"Definitely feel better about how the team was playing at the end as opposed to the beginning. And I think that ultimately, we want to win, we want to get into the playoffs, we want to still be playing, it’s a disappointment to not be. We thought we were on our way and had a chance, but I think ultimately the progression — we got better, and we got some things to build on going into next season. We will continue to make progress, but we’re not starting from scratch and that’s exciting.

"Got an opportunity to build relationships with all these guys and they know me and I know them and just think it will allow us — we need to have a much better start. Ultimately, it was too big a hole to crawl out of where we were in December. But I think we positioned ourselves with a lot of work in the offseason here and in training camp to have a much better beginning to the season."

Captain Jonathan Toews:

"You want to have an opportunistic outlook as to where things are going. But you've got to be realistic too as far as where you have to grow, where you have to get better. At the end of the day, we were in the hunt. We had a chance to get points to make the playoffs. It's easy to say what happened earlier in the season, if that would have been any different, we'd be sitting in a different spot right now. But we're not satisfied one way or another. You have to learn what you can from the situation and let it be that motivating factor that makes you better next year."

Alex DeBrincat:

"Ups and downs. I thought we had a few good stretches there. But at the beginning of the season, that long, what, probably 21 games with maybe three wins was too much to dig ourselves out of. I think if we win more games there we're maybe not doing this today and we're maybe playing a game in a few days, so tough to say. I thought after All-Star break we did pretty well but we're still on the outside looking in and we gotta be better."

Patrick Kane:

"The way we played the last 50 or so games, a lot of confidence in the room, lot of confidence in management and coaches about bringing back a good, solid team next year. And disappointing finish, for sure. But I definitely think there’s a lot of hope and belief in the room that we can turn it around."

Brent Seabrook:

"It’s a lost season. We want to be competing for Stanley Cups every year and it’s something we’ve done a lot in our career. I know it’s not going to happen every year, but why can’t it? We want to get back there. We want to get back to competing for a Stanley Cup and we want to win more. I’ve talked about this at length in years past, anytime you lose out, you hear every once in a while when a guy retires he’s got one Cup. I think when you win a Cup, the desire burns that much more. You just want it that much more.

"Playing in those meaningful games, I’ve also talked about the fact that the regular season’s the regular season. It’s obviously important because you’ve got to make the playoffs. But I think as hockey players and professional athletes, it’s the playoffs that really mean the most to us and having that opportunity to play in those big games and visiting buildings where everybody’s screaming at you, and here at the United Center when it’s rocking and roaring and they’re screaming at everybody else, that’s the fun hockey to play."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Brent Seabrook addresses report about Blackhawks asking him to waive no-movement clause

Brent Seabrook addresses report about Blackhawks asking him to waive no-movement clause

Two days after a report circulated that the Blackhawks have asked Brent Seabrook whether he'd be willing to waive his no-movement clause and he respectfully declined, the 33-year-old defenseman is shooting those talks down.

“I haven’t been approached by anybody,” Seabrook said after practice on Monday. “So I don’t know where the reports came from. ... I haven’t been approached or talked to about anything, so it’s news to me."

Seabrook, who’s in Year 3 of an eight-year contract that carries a $6.875 million cap hit, has a full no-movement clause that changes to a modified no-trade clause in the final two years.

With the trade deadline on Feb. 25, Seabrook declined to comment on whether or not he’d waive it before then if the right opportunity presented itself.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Seabrook said. “I guess I’ll deal with that when that day comes. But my focus right now is to try to help this team get into the playoffs. That’s what I’m thinking about.”

Seabrook is universally loved in the Blackhawks locker room. He's obviously been a key figure in franchise history, and a pillar on the back end for a decade, which has resulted in three Stanley Cups runs along the way. His teammates came to defense again on Monday.

"I don't even know if that's true, to be honest with you," Patrick Kane said. "Who knows where these rumors and sources come from. It'd be nice to have Seabs as a teammate for a long time. We love him here and I think he likes it here too. But once again, we're speaking on rumors. So probably shouldn't do that."

With it being trade deadline month, this it the time where rumors start to fly all across the league. That's just the nature of the business. The Blackhawks know it, and won't let it affect their focus.

"It could be, but every team deals with it," coach Jeremy Colliton said regarding the potential distractions. "I don't think we're special in that regard. We got a job to do. Let's go out and win hockey games, and that's the focus.

"Listen, lots of things get said at this time of year. It's a very competitive media market place. I'm not going to comment on every little thing that comes up."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.