Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp is not helping his team in any way, but coach Joel Quenneville‘s loyalty to the veteran is also hurting the squad
No one likes to part with beloved veteran on a pro sports team. It’s even more so the case when that athlete helped his current team to tremendous heights in the past. But for the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s high time to consider cutting ties with Patrick Sharp.
There is a big issue here, of course, in that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has a seemingly undying amount of loyalty to the 36-year-old. (I also just realized I’m writing this post on his 36th birthday; sorry, Sharpie.)
Sharp not only isn’t helping the Blackhawks these days, he’s hurting them. He somehow goes from the press box to a cushy spot on the top line despite doing nothing this season to prove he can handle it — and then he doesn’t improve the line in any discernible way. But this is how Coach Q operates with his veterans. See Michal Rozsival for another example.
Let’s dig into Sharp’s season a little bit before discussing the idea of Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman stepping in and saving Coach Q from himself in the Sharp matter.
Sharp’s statistics a disaster
Sharp’s first point this season was the 600th of his career. That’s pretty cool. But he still hasn’t managed to get to No. 610, and with 34 games under his belt, that’s obviously a concern.
Sharp has just nine points, including three goals, in those aforementioned 34 games. Four of his points, including two of the goals, were tallied in Chicago’s first six affairs this season.
Da Windy City
Now, if you were to just look at the minutes he plays, you could try to blame some of Sharp’s scoring drought on that. After all, he has averaged 13:36 in ice time, well below his career mark of 17:14.
But then you look at his individual game-by-game performances, and you realize Sharp has fired at least one shot on goal in 31 of 34 games played. He has 74 on the season, good for a 4.1 shooting percentage. That’s egregiously far below his career mark of 10.6.
And he’s on pace to fire 176 shots on goal for the entire year. While that would be his lowest total in a non-major-injury or non-lockout season since 2008-09, it’s still a really solid number of shots from a guy who plays less than 15 minutes a night. Sharp is behind only Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad in shots on goal this season, for reference.
What makes this all the more disturbing is Sharp is receiving amazing zone starts. He has opened 64.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, surpassing his career average of 60.4. He should be crushing offensively with that tilt, but he’s just not getting it done.
That’s even been true when playing with guys like Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Hartman, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz. It’s not like Sharp is out there with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels. He’s had good linemates time and again. It just isn’t working.
Bowman must step in
Things could be changing with David Kampf’s call-up today in the wake of Corey Crawford‘s latest injured-reserve stint, but the fact still remains that Coach Q is not going to keep Sharp on the bench long-term.
This is where Bowman needs to jump in. Sharp isn’t heading to the AHL, so Bowman needs to do the prudent thing and let Sharp go. The Blackhawks would be better served having Vinnie Hinostroza or Kampf in Sharp’s spot at a slightly cheaper price than letting Sharp float around like a ghost.
Sharp could have been a feel-good story had he played well, returning to Chicago a few years after being pushed out in a salary cap purge. But it’s clear that’s not coming to fruition. The Blackhawks have a $1 million paperweight right now.
Coach Q’s loyalty to veterans is probably appreciated by the players themselves, but someone needs to be the party pooper to make sure this team is holding the appropriate roster in order to succeed. Sharp being on it doesn’t help with that.
Sharp can always return to the Blackhawks in a Brian Campbell-esque role after his retires, which I think may have been the plan in the not-so-distant future anyway. But Bowman just needs to face facts right now, live with disappointing Q and cut ties with an underperforming athlete.