As the calendar flips to August, Madhouse Enforcer is wrapping up its series of player evaluations. Today, we focus our attention on one of the most popular members of the Chicago Blackhawks, forward Patrick Sharp.
Sharp may not have had the most gaudy statistics during the regular season (he only had six goals and 14 assists in 28 games), but during the Stanley Cup playoffs, he stepped his game up in a big way.
That’s because Sharp had 10 goals and six assists in 23 games, and he fired 91 shots on goal in the process. That kind of offensive output is pretty standard stuff for Sharp when his teams hit the postseason, as he had 22 points during the Hawks’ 2010 Cup run and five points in the team’s seven game loss to the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.
That ability to stand out during a time that his team needs him the most is the hallmark of a savvy veteran, and Sharp definitely fits that bill.
The other thing that really stood out about Sharp during the 2013 campaign was his perseverance as he struggled during the regular season. At one point, Sharp went 10 games without a goal, and despite that inability to turn the red light on, Sharp kept his head up and kept shooting, and that’s all you can ask for out of a sniper.
Questions about Sharp’s durability came to the fore in the 2013 season, as he missed 20 games because of a variety of ailments, notably a shoulder injury he sustained on a check along the boards against the Colorado Avalanche.
In addition to those missed games, Sharp’s minutes were also down from the previous year, with the 31-year old playing over a minute less per game than he had in 2012. That is partly a product of head coach Joel Quenneville having more players that he can plug into the top two offensive lines for the Hawks, but it could also be a product of Sharp being a bit banged up through most of the year.
Finally, Sharp has to avoid the temptation of settling for quantity over quality in terms of the shots that he takes. All too often, Sharp would take shots from the wings with little to no traffic in front of the net, and while that is a pretty common occurrence during his career with the Hawks, he seemed to do it a bit more often in the 2013 season. He’ll need to cut back on that in order to keep his production level at his standard level.
Best Game of 2013:
Sharp’s early season performances were a big part of the reason the Hawks got off to a historically good start to the regular season, and his game against the Dallas Stars January 24th was the pinnacle of that hot start.
In that game, Sharp had points on all three of Chicago’s goals, including a goal and two assists. What made his performance even better was that all three of the points came on the team’s power play, a glimmer of hope in what was otherwise a dismal season for that area of the Hawks’ game.
Outlook for 2013-14:
As Sharp gets older, his game will become more predicated on an ability to make plays around the net, and his north-south speed will continue to outpace his east-west speed. With that in mind, look for Sharp to remain on the second line with Marian Hossa when the season commences, because that duo’s styles of play mesh better than a union of Sharp with Patrick Kane would.
What will be most interesting will be which player will end up centering that line. Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad seem to be the two biggest contenders for the role, with Andrew Shaw and prospects like Mark McNeill potentially serving as dark horses for the spot.
Sharp will also be looked at to provide more punch for an anemic power play that was a source of consternation for fans throughout the season.