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Blackhawks D-man Brent Seabrook quietly stands out

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MONTREAL -- It is a clumsy comparison, but bear with me.

Ringo Starr was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last summer, the last of the Beatles' Fab Four to go in as a solo artist.

He was always fourth in that group when it came to recognition. Such is life.

On the Beatles of the hockey world -- the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks -- Brent Seabrook still gets overshadowed behind the team's rock stars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.

But do you think he cares?

"I just like to play hockey," Seabrook shrugged Thursday after the morning skate at Bell Centre.

"We've got a good group in here, a lot of good players, I just try to stay in the background and do my job."

Seabrook isn't the only Hawk whose exploits don't always generate the proper attention. Marian Hossa's defensive game somehow still hasn't gotten him a Selke Trophy. Niklas Hjalmarsson remains a crazily underrated defensive defenseman. Corey Crawford deserves to be mentioned among the league's best netminders but rarely does.

But to me, Seabrook stands out among the most deserving of more public praise for his impact on and off the ice.

"Quietly the best two/three D-man in the game," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said via text message this week. "Plays every situation, whichever type of game it is. Great playoff stats and big goals. Three Cups, Olympic gold, world junior gold. All-Star Game last year. Power play, penalty kill and leadership."

Let's just state the obvious here: Sutter isn't one for hyperbole. But it very much captures the feeling of many opposing coaches, players and hockey executives around the league when it comes to the level of respect that's out there for the playoff warrior Seabrook.

You're preaching to the choir, of course, inside that Hawks room. They understand the true value of Brent Seabrook.

"Over those three Cups he's been a huge part," Hossa said. "He's very vocal in the dressing room, he loves to get the guys going. That's really important for this team. On the ice, he's a top defenseman playing huge minutes and scoring big goals, especially in the playoffs."

Forward Andrew Desjardins added: "He's an amazing player and leader. He's really vocal in the room. He's on top of guys. Guys don't get off the hook with him. Which is good. He's a good leader.

"And his shot is just one-of-a-kind. I didn't realize how good a shot it was until I got here, and how heavy and accurate it is. Just smarts all around. Obviously just an outstanding defenseman."

When Desjardins was acquired from the San Jose Sharks last season, it was Seabrook who made sure over the first few days that the new guy was adjusting well to the new surroundings.

"Him and Johnny [Toews] both talked to me right away," Desjardins said. "Seabs the first few days would do some small talk with me just to get to know me. That's a huge part of transitioning to a new team to have guys just take you in and talk to you and make you feel comfortable."

Seabrook, to be sure, is the prevailing voice in the Hawks' dressing room. He's talking, all the time.

"I've always liked to talk," he said, smiling. "I don't know how the other guys feel about it, but it gets me going. It gets me into it. Sometimes you have to be a bit harder, too. But I like to have fun and enjoy it, keep the guys loose. I think that's when we play our best hockey is when we're a group out there just playing and having fun. It's fun to goof around and get the guys going."

Which is the perfect complement to the captain's quiet leadership by example.

"Absolutely," Toews said Thursday. "I think he does both. He has that personality where he's able to really stir things up and make guys laugh, or get under a guy's skin, whatever it takes. He's definitely that veteran presence we need in our room. And he's consistent, he does it every day. You know what you're going to get out of him on the ice as well."

Toews paused before adding: "It's great to see him do well and get the offense this year that we know he's capable of. Last couple of years he wasn't getting that, but it didn't mean he wasn't playing well, he was always contributing, especially in the playoffs. In big games, he's always there."

Seabrook, 30, is on pace for a career offensive season with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 45 games, which is on target to eclipse his previous best of 48 points set in 2010-11.

As it is, he's just two points shy of last season's entire 82-game point tally.

Perhaps because Patrick Sharp is gone -- Sharp manned one of the point positions on the power play -- Seabrook's power-play usage has increased this season.

"He's shooting the puck, he wants the puck, he's got a great shot," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "A key point on our power play is pounding it from the top, and one-timers are getting through. He's had a good year."

Just the way you want to respond after signing an eight-year, $55 million extension, a late-September deal that doesn't kick in until next season.

For Seabrook, getting the deal done a year out was important.

"I've been with Chicago my entire career and I didn't want to leave," said the native of Tsawwassen, British Columbia. "It was pretty nice to get the phone call in the summer, Stan [Bowman] had a busy summer, so it was nice for him to make some time for us. I'm happy the deal is done. Last time we did a deal I went through the season and signed late in the year and it was on my mind a lot. So it really helped me just get it out of the way and get rid of that distraction. I never saw myself ever playing somewhere else."

Because there's more winning to be had.

The Beatles broke up one day. This Blackhawks' core, however, is far from done.

And the hunger to win another Stanley Cup is as strong as ever.

"It's a special group," Seabrook said. "Once you get to the top of the mountain and you taste it, it makes you want more. For us, winning three Cups has been special, it's something I never dreamed of, never thought it would happen, but being part of a team that's been able to do that, it just makes you want more. We've established a culture in Chicago of winning. That culture continues to grow. The new guys that come in all want that opportunity and that taste."