The Prodigal Swordsman returns.
After two seasons in Dallas, an aged (which is depressing to say because he’s not even four months older than I am) Patrick Sharp returns for his 11th season on West Madison on a prove-it contract. But just how much is there left to prove?
48GP – 8G – 10A
51.5% CF – 43.5 oZS – 56.5 dZS
A Look Back: Patrick Sharp’s tenure in Dallas was a mixed bag to be sure. In his first year, playing alongside the Style Boyz South in Tyler Seguin and the selfish Jamie Benn, Sharp put up another 20 goal and 55 point season, with a commensurate 53.9 share at evens even for the Chuck and Duck defensive scheming of one head coach Lindy Ruff . The Stars won the division, and Sharp had 6 points in 13 playoff games, including an OT winner. Last season however saw Sharp miss significant time due to brown brain issues as well as a hip condition (of course) that would require surgery earlier this summer. While the raw numbers of 8 goals and 10 assists are certainly less than thrilling, a bit deeper of a dive shows that there still might be something left in the tank for Shooter (gross).
As shown above, Sharp was still above water on the attempts ledger despite taking far more defensive zone starts in years in a bottom six role, and was still able to flip the ice. Sharp was above the team rate of 50.08 even in spite of his various ailments, albeit on a team that went nowhere. A closer look at the scoring numbers too shows Sharp’s shooting percentage crater to 5.5% in all situations, far below his 10.8% career mark. Now some of this could be time catching up to him, as it waits for no man, but Sharp’s number of shots on goal per 60 minutes last year was the highest it’s been since the 2011-2012 season. His scoring chances per 60 were also in line with career averages for whatever one wants to make of that completely subjective stat, but at the very least it shows that it was shooting percentage that dipped on its own, which could have been attributed to bad luck. However, that would be the third straight year of bad luck, as his shooting percentages have trended as 10.0, 7.0, 8.8, 5.5 over the last four seasons. That’s not particularly encouraging for someone who is turning 36 in December.
A Look Ahead: With Sharp on a one year, bonus-laden, minimum base salary deal, on paper it’s not a bad gamble. It’s a known quantity who still has tremendous value in the possession game on the bottom six for next to no monetary commitment. It’s a proven scorer who might have one death-yawp left in his career of a shooting percentage spike and anything gotten out of him in that regard is a bonus. But it’s the known quantity portion of it that is the problem here.
This piece cannot proceed with out the explicit disclosure that Patrick Sharp is one of my favorite hockey players ever. While it sounds like punk rock scenester one-upsmanship bullshit, I was at the Wolves/Phantoms Calder final during the lockout year where Sharp scored both goals in a 2-1 double OT win for the Phantoms, and he was the most noticeable player on the ice on a team with a young Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. When the Hawks traded for him for Matt Ellison (remember THAT), I thought it was a steal, but even then I didn’t realize it may go down as one of the greatest swindles in modern NHL history. I own a Patrick Sharp jersey. Every time the Hawks went to a playoff OT and the picks were made via text among us, I literally only ever picked Sharp. I went out and drank my feelings and listened to “I Don’t Want It” by Ween on repeat the Friday night he was traded. So please take the following statement with all of this in mind: if the Hawks have to rely on Patrick Sharp in any kind of of primary scoring, top-6 role for any length of time, particularly in the spring, they are in profoundly deep shit.
Sharp has looked fairly spry this pre-season coming off his hip surgery, and he, Anisimov, and Hartman can be a real threat as a third line at least until the first of January, which is when Sharp’s scoring either completely disappears or things start to fall off of him. But recently he’s been getting looks to the left of Schmaltz and opposite Garbage Dick. Reuniting Sharp and the latter will only feed into each other’s more base instincts (on the ice), and have Sharp simply waiting for his tape to be found. It’s just a recipe for longterm success, and it ultimately sandbags Alex DeBrincat who has shown real chemistry, but it’s clear that Quenneville is looking for any excuse to start him in Rockford next week a la Our Special Boy Teuvo. The common thought would be that Q would at least wait until about halfway into the first period against Pittsburgh next week to pull this shit, but old habits die hard. The hope is that DeBrincat continues to make the decision that much harder for everyone, and that Sharp can be properly used to maximize whatever is left of him.