Hockey is a tough game but hockey players have some of the longest careers in sports. Over the last couple seasons we’ve heard about Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook getting too old and being worn out. While they’ve obviously lost a step, I still believe they have a lot of hockey left in them and have history to back it up.
Over 30 years old is certainly not a death sentence by NHL standards. Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Whitney, Zdeno Chara and Ray Bourque are just a few all-time great D-men who played into their 40s. Keith and Seabrook are only 35 and 33 respectively.
What really got me thinking about this was Chris Chelios’ career. He played until he was 48 years old and won 2 Stanley Cups after 40.
Chelios was also an anomaly known for partying hard and working out harder. It’s been well-documented how he would stay up partying later than anyone and still be the first guy at the gym in the morning.
Keith is always mentioned in the talks of best conditioned NHL players. Seabrook not known for his workouts is now turning heads this summer. I would never question Seabs work ethic or his word because it seems like he wants to prove people wrong and show them he has a lot left.
In addition to their training there are a couple other positives about their careers. Neither have ever been linked to being chronic partiers or ever really had serious injuries.
“But they’ve played so many games!” So did the guys I mentioned previously. Lidstrom made the playoffs every season in his 20 year career, Chelios only missed once in his final season and Chara has been 13/20 seasons. This isn’t a valid excuse because hockey players are machines.
I’m not denying that Keith and Seabrook haven’t declined slightly but I don’t think they’re done yet. The difference between them and those players is that the other organizations recognized it.
The problem isn’t the duo. It’s the Blackhawks not putting the correct defensive pieces around them and Coach Q not giving younger players a chance. These two shouldn’t be looked upon to carry the whole defense anymore.
We can be honest that neither at their prime could be replaced. Though without playing anyone new, they won’t be able to find anyone new. Both saw small declines in time on ice but in all honesty were only seeing one, maybe two, less shifts per game last season.
Keith can still battle as a top 2 defenseman for a few more years but Seabs is better suited to work with a much faster partner in second pairing. Seabrook faired much better when his minutes declined as last season went on and will be valuable to the team more as on ice coach.
Aside from their dependability on the ice, both are invaluable in the dressing room and on the ice for younger players. It would be hard to argue that either of them wouldn’t be captains on many other NHL teams.
Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think the Blackhawks will be very good this season but it won’t be the fault of the pair. The team just doesn’t have the right guys around them or they just haven’t been developed yet. It will most likely be another year of Keith and Seabrook being blamed for the team’s defensive struggles which is unfortunate.
Keith and Seabrook started their NHL careers on the same night and their names will always be synonymous with each other as well as the Blackhawks. Without either of them there would probably one or two less Stanley Cups to brag about. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
They went through some lean seasons through the start of the careers and have earned everything. It’s a shame people are willing to turn on them for matters out of their control.
I don’t know how this season will play out but I know Keith and Seabrook still have a few good seasons left in them. Hockey history doesn’t lie.
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