Musings

No Longer A Finishing Move?

I always try and keep in mind how it might sound to fans of other teams when you start complaining about the Hawks’ problems. Like, for instance, this current mini-drama where the Hawks have a four-time 30-goal scorer currently on their third line and what it might mean. Most teams would probably love to have that problem.

But the Hawks’ expectations and their goals, (or their, y’know, ONE GOAL that they keep waving in my face like a frat boy’s wang) are higher than most, so these kinds of things bother us.

Patrick Sharp moved to accommodate the return of Kris Versteeg. What was odd about it was just how quickly that came about. It was about the 2nd period of Versteeg’s first game back against Vancouver. This after missing a month and clearly rusty. But Q was in such a hurry to reunited The Conjuring (Versteeg-Richards-Kane) that he barely waited 20 minutes. And it’s not like Sharp was pulling that line down.

Sharp’s production has been a topic all season, so let’s dive into it. Clearly, the first thing that jumps out is his 6.3% shooting percentage, almost half of his career 11.5% mark. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with the amount of chances he’s getting, as he’s averaging 3.6 shots per game this year after 3.8 last year. There’s a little difference in the amount of shots at even-strength he’s getting, 2.4 per game this year vs. 2.75 per game last year, but I’m not sure that’s a huge red flag.

The big gap here is in even-strength shooting percentage. This year he’s shooting 1.9% at evens. He’s never been below 6.7% at evens, and actually he’s only been below 9% at evens once, which was two years ago when he was similarly snake-bitten during the lockout season. He then went on to score 10 goals in the playoffs in 23 games, so a playoff revival is certainly not out of the question.

The question you’re probably asking yourself would be is he not getting the same quality chances. Here is his shot chart from last season and then this one:

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 11.48.50 AMScreen Shot 2015-02-17 at 11.51.48 AM

Keep in mind he’s played about half the games this season that he did last year, when he played all 82. It looks like he’s not getting to the slot as much as he did last year, when he mostly skated with Hossa and Toews.

And this can be the problem for Sharp at times. When he gets extended time with Kane, he does tend to float around and wait for Kane to find him. It hasn’t been as bad this year as it has been in the past, and that’s Sharp’s game. But it does happen. But why putting him with Kruger and Smith is going to fix this, I can’t tell you. Because Sharp doesn’t really create his own shot, and hasn’t in years. He needs assistance, and giving him two checkers on his line is not the remedy.

Possession-wise, everyone falls off a cliff when taken away from Sharp. He’s got one of the best Corsi-per-60 among forwards in the league. Andrew Shaw, whom Sharp has skated with the most this season unfortunately, goes from a 60% with Sharp to a 51.9 without him. Keith and Seabrook drop 5% and 7%, respectively with and without Sharp. Toews drops 6%.

But I suppose three even-strength goals is three even-strength goals.

It just appears Sharp is having a luckless season, combined with a leg injury. He’s also been the main victim of Andrew Shaw’s ADD-riddled defensive coverage, which is why his PDO is in the fucking tank.

All of it has led people to wonder if Sharp could actually be dealt at the deadline. I’m starting to wonder too, though I would still be utterly shocked. From what we can piece together, Sharp has a limited no-trade, which would mean he has a list of teams he can’t be moved to but if the Hawks were to strike a deal with one of the others he can’t block it. Or it could mean he has to submit a list of teams he would be dealt to if that hasn’t happened already. If it hasn’t, imagine the firestorm that would be if it got out he was asked to.

Dealing Sharp would have far too many risks. One, this is a proven playoff performer (and that’s the reason I would also be surprised if Bickell goes anywhere). Sharp’s case for the Conn Smythe in 2010 was just as strong as Toews’s, and he actually scored in the last two rounds. He was a force in 2013 as well, with only last season being something of a blight when it looked for all the world he was hurt (though he never admitted to being so).

Second, moving Sharp means the Hawks are fully buying into Kris Versteeg as a top six forward, and that would be a silly thing to do. One, Versteeg is only a year removed from being a complete albatross to this team. Two, he’s coming off a hand injury which could really hinder his touch and feel which his game obviously requires. Three, this is still KRIS FUCKING VERSTEEG. You don’t know when he’s going to dry a blind drop pass in his own zone and leave Crawford facing a 4-on-0 or something.

Third, and this is a longer shot, but no one should be sure that Brad Richards isn’t going to fade in the spring like he did last year with the Rangers (and may have started already hello two points in 12 games). If that happens, and you’re left with Toews-Shaw-Faded Richards-Kruger down the middle, you’re basically where you were last year which wasn’t good enough. As they may have already given up on the idea of Teuvo contributing at center this season (shouldn’t), Sharp is at least another option and one they used for a little bit this season already.

What we can all agree on that playing him on a checking line isn’t going to help. And now that I’ve said that, here comes a hat trick tomorrow.

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