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Exit Interviews: Patrick Sharp

I’m going to jump out of turn here, and instead of crawling up the depth chart sequentially we’ll jump ahead  to a player who is very much in the news and very likely is going to be much more in the news in the coming days. And that’s Patrick Sharp.

Regular Season: 82 games, 34 goals, 44 assists, 78 points, +13, 0.53 Behind The Net Rating, 17.62 Corsi per 60, (+7.9 Corsi Relative per 60)

Playoffs: 19 games, 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, -2, -0.91 Behind The Net Rating, -8.6 Corsi per 60 (-9.1 Corsi Relative per 60)

What We Liked: Much like a football in the groin is a football in the groin, 34 goals and 78 points is 34 goals and 78 points. The 78 points were a career high for The Shooter, and the 34 the second-most he’d put up in a season. Sharp also played all 82 games, which he’d only managed one other time in his career. At least in the regular season (and Game 7) Sharp still had a knack for coming up with the big goal and there’s still no better Hawk at ghosting into the scoring area at just the right time to bury one. And hey, making your first Olympic team at age 32 for Canada is really not something that should be sneezed at, because Sharp beat out a lot of younger forwards with more international pedigree.

What We Didn’t Like: This list is longer than you’d think. It seems this year that Sharp has started down the path set by Jarome Iginla the past few years, where a talented two-way forward starts to become something of a one-dimensional sniper. While people love to use his chasing down of Matt Duchene on a breakaway (even though it was on Boxing Day Plus when the Avs clearly weren’t there) as evidence that Sharp was still the two-way demon he had been, if you watched every game you saw that wasn’t the case. Some of the nasty habits that only flashed in previous years were more prevalent this year. The fleeing of the zone early when possession hadn’t been gained, the floating around the neutral and offensive zone instead of seeking the puck, all the while waiting for Toews and Hossa to hit his tape (which they did more often than not), the not always digging it back on the backcheck, they were just more in evidence this season. Some of that could be attributed to aging legs asked to play 82 and the Olympics, but they were there early too.

And of course, there were the playoffs, where Sharp just wasn’t himself. There has been no claim of injuries, but I still find that hard to believe. Again, it could have been just the wear of a long season. But Sharp managed five goals, and four of them were either complete flukes or in the last second of a game already decided. Only his second in Game 7 (arguably his one in Game 6 against St. Louis, though Miller completely shit it) were genuine goals. It got him booted down to the third line for most of the L.A. series, as Sharp just looked like he didn’t have that burst that put him past and around d-men. That’s why I’m still suspicious of an injury, probably from when Shaw accidentally clocked him in the Minnesota series.

What Is It, You Would Say, You Do Here: Well this is the story, isn’t it? Because it looks like whatever Sharp does, it’s not going to be here. There’s been a lot of smoke recently about Sharp being available via trade. You’ve had organizational bullhorn Eddie Olczyk speculate that a veteran is going to be moved, and he almost always has an agenda. There are plenty reporting it as well, and we’ve yet to hear a denial from the Hawks. Considering how much the Hawks control their message, I find it hard to believe that stuff like this gets out without a denial without some sort of plan. The lack of injury news in the playoffs seems stranger now, because even if Sharp himself wouldn’t use it as an excuse you’d think the Hawks would for a player considered part of “the core.” Don’t want to hurt his value?

For purely hockey reasons, it only makes some sense. Sharp is in his 30s, which means he’s beyond his peak. He’s expensive (though on a bang for buck level, he’s one of the more valuable around. Though as you’ll see, that term is going to be a double entendre), and the Hawks may have to open up some cap space for the Kane and Toews extensions. The Hawks may feel that they can go younger and cheaper on a line with Toews and Hossa (or Kane and #2 center TBD) and he’ll produce. For instance, I can say with relative confidence that if you stuck Morin on Toews’s and Hossa’s wing, he’d give you 20-25 goals. The Hawks have a lot of wingers, and that’s probably where they’re best able to replace a departure.

Ah, but that’s not the whole story here. In my position, pretty regularly I get emails from people claiming to be in the know (and some genuinely are) letting me know about what they’ve heard about this guy or what’s going on with this injury and so on. I appreciate it of course, as I don’t really have any “insiders.” Most of it I dismiss out of hand. But when they start to pile up about the same things or incidents, you start to take notice. When you tap on some people who may be in the know and they say the same things, you take notice more. So I present the following not as truth but just as what I’ve heard repeatedly from a wide variety of people.

There are off-ice issues with Sharp. There may have been a physical altercation with a teammate (and a very important one). Let’s just say the image of Sharp as a wholesome family man with his two daughters is not an accurate picture. There may be other problems. Of course, I find that second one kind of hilarious because the Hawks didn’t exactly halt, and even accelerated, that whole reputation Sharp has as the best looking athlete in town. “Look at how dangerous this tiger is! And now we’re shocked that it’s eating people!”

We know how protective the Hawks are of their message and their image. I don’t know if all or any of what we’ve heard about Sharp is true and what kind of complications it could lead to. But what is clear is that the Hawks are pretty wary of it. And it might just sully some of what they’ve presented to the world. Clearly can’t have that.

But as for connecting the dots with Sharp on the move, and Ryan Kesler coming to town, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The Canucks would want to get younger and cheaper in return for Kesler, neither of which Sharp is. Maybe he’s part of the deal, but I’d be real surprised if that was the case. It makes more sense in a deal for Joe Thornton, as with Doug Wilson losing his mind he would think he’s shipping out his Captain Loser for a proven winner. But the money doesn’t totally line up there either, though it could.

All of this leads me to believe The Sharp Shooter’s days in red are at an end, as soon as Friday. It’s sad, because there was no better servant than Sharp. And if it’s for reasons that don’t have to do with hockey, that would piss me off royally (depending on return, of course). Of course, we’ll never hear any of this. But if you own a #10 jersey… might be time to reinvest.

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