Before the season started, we repeatedly stated that those remaining of the so-called "core" were going to have to elevate their production after the The Great Cap Purge of Aught Ten, and one of the players that did so offensively was the criminally handsome Patrick Sharp. However, that offensive production came at a cost. As a result, the Hawks are left still in the same place they've been the last three seasons- asking what they want Patrick Sharp to be.
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Contract Status: Signed through 2012 ($3.9 million cap hit)
Positives: For the vast majority of the season, Sharp was the Hawks' #1 goal scoring threat, including the early stretches of the season where he and Marian Hossa kept the team from being utterly buried before Halloween, with 10 goals in October alone. Sharp put up a career high in points with 71, and far eclipsed his previous points-per-game rate with .95. This level of production earned Sharp his first trip to the All-Star Game, where he was the game's MVP (though how much his performance merited it is still up for discussion). Sharp also finally found a home on the power play, manning the left point for much of the season, where his ability to make himself invisible to defenders (perhaps utterly dazed by his Bugle Boy caliber good looks) allowed him to put up a career-high 12 power play goals. Not to mention that when he flanked Toews and Kane on the top line, there was not a more electrifying or productive unit in the league, as Sharp with Daydream Nation represents the perfectly idealized Joel Quenneville line of puck-winner, playmaker, finisher.
Negatives: Sharp's offensive production came to the serious deficit of his two-way game, which had once been a strength of this team. Because he had exhibited such defensive smarts in the past, both even strength and short handed, it was very obvious that his floating and cherry picking was by choice, not by nature. Whether it was a directive given by a coaching staff aware of its dogshit bottom of the forward corps, or Sharp being enamored with his own scoring prowess, the fact of the matter was Sharp was less interested than ever in his own zone. And though it's exacerbated by his Ross-and-Rachel, Sam-and-Diane relationship with the center position, there is no mitigating his negative behind the net rating while playing with the best teammates of anyone in the regular lineup. And while it came a little later than usual this year (it normally happens around January 1st), and was amplified by his injury, Sharp's annual scoring drought was in full effect when the team was clawing for playoff position, as he only scored one goal after the end of February.
Defining Moment: Four assists in a period? Not bad.
Outlook: Because of the inherent value of Sharp's contract, for the last three years, people have been wanting to concoct a scenario wherein he's traded to alleviate some of the cap space, as his versatility, production, and presence in the room make him an asset to pretty much any team. I'd even go so far as to say that Sharp could and should be a captain on at least half the teams in the league. That talk will only get louder now that Sharp is in a walk year. But Stan Bowman last year and Sharp himself this year have reiterated time and again that this is where he wants to be, and barring an unforeseen circumstance, it seems as though Patrick Sharp will be made a Blackhawk for a very long time. It's figuring out what to do with him that has been, and still is the problem. Sharp has been a 30+ goal scorer on the wing, and he's been a responsible 2-way #2 center on a Stanley Cup champion. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but the Hawks will need to decide which is more valuable to them as a team in the next month in order to properly construct their off-season shopping list.
Final Grade: C+. Yeah, the goals were nice and they carried the Hawks early, but Sharp has still never escaped a serious drought in his goal scoring output, and there are times that it feels like he couldn't hit water if he fell off a boat just given the volume of his shot attempts. And furthermore, we all know Sharp's game has more brains and substance than what he showed this year, which makes his defensive lapses and minus rating while boasting a career offensive year that much more difficult to abide by.