Season Preview Question Time: What Will We Get Out Of The Sharp-Shooter?
Ah, Shooter. Well, we know what's for certain out of him, that would be goals and goals, and a lot of moistened underwear (all of which would be McClure's). But there's more to it than that, as Patrick Sharp is not all that he appears to be.
Let us go back to Sharpie's breakout season of 07-08. 36 goals, dynamic play in both ends of the ice, and a budding understanding with Kane that eventually would border on hallucinagenically good (not even close to spelled right, but fuck it). He also saw time on the PK, was amongst the league-leaders in short-handed goals, and otherwise was a fine killer, both of penalties and of hearts.
To last year, despite the injuries, the goals were still there, but where was everything else? Coach Q took Sharp off the penalty kill, leaving it to the bottom half of the roster of forwards. We saw a few more lazy penalties, leading to a famous benching in Phoenix. But most disturbingly, we saw a fair-amount of floating, waiting for Kane to hit his tape in the crease. The most damning number for #10 is that in 07-08 is Behind The Net Rating was +.82, which for a forward is very strong. Last year, that plummeted to -.42. Sharp was bordering on a liability in his own zone.
Why? Did being off the kill snuff out his two-way forward instincts? Had the new contract gone to his head? Certainly playing at center for a large portion of the season didn't help. Especially when Bolland picked up all the checking assignments, leaving Sharp as a pure scoring center.
Let's be honest here, Sharp is a wonderful player. He only needs one chance to score, has a high hockey IQ. But he's capable of so much more. His career path in 07-08 suggested one that could eventually bend toward a Selke Award nominee, and the Hawks will need that one back. Sharp can be physical when need be, and he can be excellent in his own end, when he wants. As we discussed on Third Man In, a fully operational Sharp makes the Hawks immensely better.
Being put back on the kill would be a good start. It will remind Patrick of skating hard in his own end, as well as provide a threat to keep opposing power plays more on their heels. What we marvel at about Scum is every forward's effort on both ends of the ice. We get that from Toews. And Bolland. And Hossa. And Ladd. At times, Versteeg. The Hawks need Sharp to rejoin that list from the get-go.