As you could probably tell, there is no rhyme or reason to how we select which player is being previewed. This time, we’re looking at Patrick Sharp. Before that, the Blackhawks announced the hiring of Kevin Cheveldayoff as Assistant General Manager. You’ll want to check out this piece about the Hawks newest employee. Ok, on to the preview.
When the gates opened to the new season, Patrick Sharp found himself in a position he hadn’t been in since his Philadelphia Phantom days: playing center. After being a 20 and 30 goal scorer as a winger in successive seasons with the Hawks, Sharp was forced to play center after the team dealt Robert Lang to ease up their salary cap issues.
He looked more than capable in the early parts of the season. During Jonathan Toews’ prolonged goal scoring slump to open the season, it was Patrick Sharp who picked up his slack, scoring 9 goals in the first 13 games.
As the season progressed, Sharp grew tired of playing center, essentially begging the coaching staff to put him back on wing. He got his wish and Kris Versteeg took over the pivot.
Then, on Valentine’s Day against the Dallas Stars, Sharp took a hard check in the boards from Steve Ott on the opening shift of the game. His knee banged into the boards and he was knocked out of commission for the next month.
He made his glorious return on March 22nd against the Los Angeles Kings. With the Hawks in an extended goal scoring slump, Sharp ignited the offense with 2 goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory.
The return was short-lived, though, because on April 3rd, Sharp crashed hard into Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. There was no official word on what happened, but rumor was that Sharp suffered a serious leg wound. He missed the remainder of the regular season but did return for the playoffs.
In the post-season, Sharp had a terrific opening round against the Calgary Flames. He had 3 goals and 3 assists in the six game set.
Then, in Game 2 against the Canucks and the Hawks trailing 2-0, Coach Quenneville made a crucial in-game adjustment. He put Sharp on a line with Ben Eager and Adam Burish. The result was the Hawks storming back to win the game 6-4 and Sharp pitching in with 2 goals.
It wasn’t until Game 3 in the Western Conference Finals that Sharp found twine again. He scored two goals, including the overtime game winner to give the Hawks their lone win against the hated Wings.
Sharp’s 2009-10 season will be a success if….
He plays the majority of the year on the first power play unit. As long as opposing teams don’t overload to prevent the cross-ice one-timer, it’s very likely that the patented Kane to Sharp play will connect on more than their fair share of goals. With Hossa missing the first few months of the season, it is imperative that Sharp plays with the Hawks most talented playmakers. This team will desperately need his sniping abilities with the man advantage.
He gets to become a penalty killer again. In the 2007-2008 season, Patrick Sharp led the NHL with 7 shorthanded goals. Once Quenneville took over this past season, Sharp found himself on the bench when there was a Hawk in the penalty box. While Q’s reasoning for using his muckers and grinders on the kill is certainly understandable (to keep his scorers fresh), it would be nice to see Sharp get some extended time on the kill to see if he can replicate that penalty killing magic.
Sharp’s 2009-10 will be a disappointment if…
His coach now thinks he’s a fourth line player. Certainly, Sharp playing on the fourth line paid immediate dividends with the Hawks stealing Game 2 against the Canucks. However, once the Hawks squared off against Detroit, Quenneville neutered one of his best players by skating him on a regular shift with Eager and Burish. It’s nice that Sharp can skate with less talented players, but that’s not going to make him a 40 goal scorer. It will just make him an expensive Jocelyn Lemieux.
He barely notches 20 goals. It’s hard to imagine Patrick Sharp not easily scoring more than 20 goals, but stranger things have happened. Opening the season without their number one goal scorer, the Hawks will need Sharp to pick up the slack, much like he did when Toews couldn’t dent twine for the first 13 games of this past season. He is exiting his ‘prime’ years (which according to Puck Prospectus is the 23-26 age range) so it is something to keep an eye on.
While this off-season has seen Patrick Sharp’s name in all different kinds trade of rumors, it appears his 3.9 cap hit is here for the forseeable future (at least through this season). The Hawks will need Sharp to provide top-end scoring for, at least, the first part of the season.
Other than Toews and Hossa, Sharp is a legitimate threat to score 40 goals at the beginning of every season. He’s also capable of making Patrick Kane look like a miniature Wayne Gretzky. Here’s hoping they both happen in the ’09-10 campaign.