What a great time to sit back and evaluate Mr. Sharp. As of now, Patrick will be a Hawk for the next 6 seasons earning somewhere around $5.9 mil a year starting in the 2012-13 season. You might be doing a double take after noticing that price-tag, I sure did until remembering just what Sharp means to this team. No, Im not just talking about the handsome good looks he brings to the bench. Sharp is the real deal, the all around deal and one of the most vital components of the "core" we love talking so much about.
After coming down hard on Mr. Hossa a few days ago, I feel less judgmental when Sharp is the one on the chopping block. Since his acquisition in 2005, Sharpie has been a personal favorite of mine. First I noticed his speed, and then his overall contribution to the teams play, both offensively and defensively. Since that deal which was a huge win for Hawk's fans everywhere, because it came at little cost to the organization, Sharp has been seen as a defensive force, physical beyond his appearance, a sharp-shooter for the offense, and a special teams wizard playing in both rolls as a PP and Pk player.
After much of the talent which brought the Cup home to Chicago was lost to cap space, Sharp was one of the "core" players who stepped their game up to answer the missing scoring power. He also found himself in a new position at center and still performed admirably in that vacant whole. As mentioned in the last post about Hossa, if not for he and Sharp, the Hawks would have produced an embarrassing amount of goose eggs early on in the season. In a year that saw him shuffled around from line to line, even positions and on a team with a severely lacking chemistry, Sharp still produced a personal high in points and lead the Hawks in scoring.
What is not to love about this guy? One could make the obvious point and send us to a quick view of Sharp's +/- of negative 1. A huge downfall of his past year. This could be attributed to his offensive hike or maybe even his shifting of positions. Who knows what Q was telling Sharp to be worried about. It is nonetheless, a heavy mark against his performance last year. However, in the end, Sharp produced 12 power-play goals while mostly in the completely new position of playing the point.
Besides the +/-, one could also point to the drought that Sharp felt during the stretch of season when the Hawks needed scoring the most. Easily on his way to topping the 40-50 goal marker after October was said and done, Sharp hit a rough patch later on and when the Hawks were reaching for a necessary playoff birth to avoid the humiliation of not making the extended season the year after hoisting the Cup. Thankfully, the Hawks lucked out and Sharp finished 8th in the league for goals with 34. No harm, no foul right?
Right. What negates that argument for me is how well Sharp played when on a consistent line as a winger, and his overall performance in the 7 game playoffs. In the year prior, Sharp was an easy argument for the MVP of the playoffs behind Toews, proving that his skill set carries well into a prolonged season. When on a line with Kane and Toews, the three shined brilliantly and offered much more than opponents could handle. I noticed a huge shift in Sharp's defensive positioning when in this line combo.
A very specific moment in time is called to my mind about Sharp: Does anyone else remember when they faced the Bruins late in the season and Sharp took it upon himself to make the best defenseman in the league (Chara's) life miserable? I sure as hell remember Sharp taking Chara into the corner and getting the best of him physically and mentally. Not an easy accomplishment by any means.
This point leads to the statement that Sharp is irreplaceable. He has just too many skills in so many different areas of play. He has proven that he can do it all and look good while doing it. I mean in his skating style of course. It is entertaining to watch Sharp play, with his sharp-shooting, killer instincts, and his new contract simply reflects SB's conclusion of the same. As if Stan hasn't commented enough about how much he respects Patrick as a player?
Final grade: A, with the hopes that he elevates his game even further, because remember that for this season, and the ones before that, Sharp was and is for the time being a steal at his price tag. In my book, playing that kind of hockey at that wage is worthy of an A, and also worthy of a raise, which he now has. Whether it was a bit higher than anticipated is another story, but try to find someone out there who offers as much for less money.