Blackhawks defense drama: Brent Seabrook scratched

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On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks put Cody Franson (fancy stats darling) on waivers. A day later, it was revealed that (frequent analytics punching bag) Brent Seabrook will be … a healthy scratch.

Wow.

There’s no denying that Seabrook, 32, has struggled recently. In some circles, he’s been a target of criticism for quite some time, with middling possession stats making for a toxic mix alongside his problematic contract.

Even so, it’s startling to see it actually happen in 2017-18, with his $6.875 million cap hit running through (gulp) 2023-24. For context, that contract runs one season beyond those of Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane, who all see their deals expire after 2022-23.

It’s all a lot to take in for a Blackhawks team that will need to battle to make the playoffs, and one that seems to be suffering from some stark salary cap realities.

“I want to get back to being more consistent,” Seabrook said after learning about being scratched, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think I’ve had good stretches and bad stretches.”

With Franson headed to the AHL – at least for now, if a trade isn’t coming – after clearing waivers, the Blackhawks’ already-suspect defense now seems to be in disarray. Joel Quenneville might roll with a combination of Keith, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, Jordan Oesterle, Michal Kempny, and Connor Murphy. (Erik Gustafsson is also available.)

Lazerus notes that Rutta, Forsling, Oesterle, Kempny, and Murphy combine for about $7.1M in cap space, barely eclipsing Seabrook’s $6.875M. That’s … not really good for anyone, really.

Now, it’s important to realize that Coach Q indicates that Seabrook may not spend much time as a healthy scratch. That’s fair, because if you can manage to put aside Seabrook’s play relative to his contract, the Blackhawks should probably use him in some fashion.

With back-to-back games (at Ottawa tonight, against the Wild in Chicago tomorrow), this could very well be a short break for Seabrook.

If this works out, it could be a wake-up call to the team as a whole, not just a fading veteran who has plenty of moments that should stand out to Blackhawks fans. He scored big goals, often in overtime, in helping the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups.

Still, it’s one of those moments that makes sense in theory but is startling in reality.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.