<
>

Seabrook eyes golden Olympic opportunity

Making the Olympic team for your home country is special for any athlete in any team or individual sport. Making it when the games are played in your home city is a whole other level of special.

The timing of such a thing is unique in of itself. The athlete has to be in or near his prime while also being good enough to make the team. Having the games near home, while the previous conditions exist, is the luck of the draw. For Brent Seabrook, it’s a very real possibility come February 2010.

Seabrook is considered on the bubble for Canadian defensemen, but a good case can be made for the Vancouver native making it, when the team is announced at the end of this month. The least of which is the familiarity with his partner, Duncan Keith, who is a lock to be one of the top six blue liners on Canada’s team.

Seabrook is concentrating on helping the Hawks “earn as many points as possible” before the Olympics begin and claims he’s not thinking about what Steve Yzerman and the rest of the Canadian brain trust are plotting for the roster. Still, the one quote Seabrook had about the chance to play in his hometown, says it all.

“It would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something I’d be very honored to do,” Seabrook said.

Many of the experts disagree on who the seven Canadian defensemen should be, but one prevailing thought has emerged: familiarity. With very little practice time for Olympic teams before the games begin, knowing each other -- especially for defensemen -- can make a real difference. Canada has a chance to take and play three pairs of blue liners who have more than enough experience with their respective partners for an easy transition.

Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger played the last three years together in Anaheim. Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr are both currently on the Calgary Flames and should easily know each other’s tendencies. That leaves shoo-in Keith and possibly Seabrook as the third pair and it would automatically gives Canada an edge.

NBC (and Hawks) analyst Eddie Olczyk will call the games come February and thinks Seabrook would be a perfect fit.

“To me, he’s worked himself into being one of the top seven or eight defensemen for Canada,” Olczyk said. “I certainly see him as a top six, playing for them every single game.”

Olczyk says players like Shea Weber, of the Predators, and Mike Green of the Capitals, among others, are in the mix as well; but the familiarity factor should play a big part in the decision making.

“If I had a hand in it, that’s something that would be very important to me,” Olczyk explained. “When it comes to two days of practice and then getting into a game, it matters. Now these guys are elite athletes and it may not take them long to get chemistry, but you don’t have much time to get it together in the Olympics. For example, a lot of people think they will take the whole line from San Jose: Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatly, and Joe Thorton. It is important.”

The other factor that might work in Seabrook’s favor are the games in this year’s Olympics being played on a NHL-sized ice as opposed to the bigger, international dimensions. Bigger dimensions favor speedier, offensive players, like the aforementioned Green. The smaller rink means more grit and physical play will be needed more than in past Olympics. That is Seabrook’s game.

“I would think the Olympics that are held in North America would be the closest to the NHL as possible,” Seabrook said. “I think it would suit my game well.”

Seabrook’s current coach agrees that he’s got the attributes that this Canadian team will need.

“He’s physical and he has some size to him as well,” Joel Quenneville said. “I think that Canadian team has some tough decision to make…You like the depth they have at that position.”

Common sense says to take pairs that know each other, and Seabrook doesn’t disagree with that thinking but is quick to add, “I don’t pick the team.”

The good news, for any potential Hawk Olympian, is the better they play this month for the Hawks, it helps them for their goals in June as well as their goals in February.

Going home during the Olympic break never sounded better for No. 7 of the Hawks.