Not Quite The End Of The World As We Know It, But I Don't Feel Fine
Not nearly enough REM references on this here bullhorn, I vow to try and remedy that.
Anyway, Patrick Sharp's knee has not been declared a federal disaster, but it clearly isn't up to snuff. What his injury actually is would be anyone's guess. You'd have a better chance of getting to borrow Q's mustache than them telling you what's wrong. So what happens now? Well, a lot of worrying first.
Let's get to what's simple: Replacing Sharp on the power play point is probably the easiest chore. While he's piled in the power play goals, Sharp was kind of an odd fit there, especially paired with fellow trigger-dude Brent Seabrook. Handing those duties to Campoli or Nick Leddy would actually put Seabs in more natural fire-at-the-ready role. Campoli, on scant evidence admittedly, seems to fit there pretty nicely as he wants to shotgun into open ice on the weakside naturally resulting in his winner in the desert.
From there, it gets tricky. The penalty kill has been double farts all year with him anyway, but his speed and skill was always a threat that in theory kept teams on their heels. Statistically, he hasn't been the Hawks worst killer but not their best either. I think Troy Brouwer is going to eat up those minutes, which is probably a slight to moderate drop off. What I'd like to try is Michael Frolik soaking up some of them. Though small, Fro has looked positionally sound, not afraid to block a shot, and has the speed and skill (we think) similar to Sharp's that could provide a shorthanded threat. We'll see if they go this route.
But from there? It's hard to sugar coat. I've said that Viktor Stalberg's recent discovery of a simple, straight lined game will work well with Daydream Nation. However, even if Vik freaks the fuck off, he's not going to put up the same numbers or anything close. In tandem with that is the fourth line's effectiveness has had a lot to do with Stalberg's improvement, and with losing that you know basically have two wastelands in your third and fourth lines (even if Marcus Kruger turns into a miracle of miracles). At some point, Brouwer probably elevates to the top line where he's had success, keep the 25-17-82 tool that's done mostly good work, and hope you can piece something together in the middle two lines.
What does it mean for the rest of the year? Well, realistically the Hawks need 10-12 more points to sew up a playoff spot. Missing the playoffs with 98 would be three more points than the record for point total to miss the playoffs. Are there 10-12 points out there without Sharp and Bolland? I think there are. These next two home games have to be won. Anaheim is playing well but at home they should be beaten. There's four. Columbus on the road and St. Louis at home are other games you have to get, no matter how tough the Blues have been known to play us. There's eight. The Hawks will have to scrape two or more points from the rest, which I think can be done (especially if the Wings continue to lose a player a day). It's not going to be fun, or particularly pleasing to watch. But I'm not going to sit here and bitch too much when the Penguins are five games over .500 without the 200 points of Malkin and Crosby elsewhere.
What worries me more is Bolland. Every day there's no change is another day you have to tack on to the amount of time he's got to be symptom free before he can even start skating, and that's already at a week, at least that's how I think it works. If there's no change for the better by the end of the weekend, then I'm thinking we should probably give up on seeing him until training camp. And Bolland is asked to do more than Sharp, and thus is harder, and probably impossible, to replace.
What I also want to know is with the importation of Marcus Kruger, it's clear that the Hawks have seen enough of Frolik at center. So why did Stan think he could play there to begin with? Who did he listen to? What did he see? There's a question I'd like answered.