This past summer, one of the best stories surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks was the return of Patrick Sharp.
General manager Stan Bowman had been forced to trade the forward to the Dallas Stars in July of 2015 due to a salary cap crunch, but he returned as a free agent in 2017.The fit seemed to be perfect.
Chicago badly needed scoring depth and Sharp was looking to extend his NHL career. So the 36-year-old signed a (very) team-friendly one-year contract worth $800,000.
He was hoping to rebound from his 2016-17 campaign which saw him play in just 48 games, but the Blackhawks weren’t looking for Sharp to score 30 goals. They simply needed a bit of extra scoring pop from a player who’d been a part of two Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks team.
To say that this reunion hasn’t gone as expected would be an understatement. Sharp has been scratched routinely by head coach Joel Quenneville this year, and it seems likely that his time in Chicago will come to a close after the final game of the regular season. Sports are very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.
But Sharp’s presumed final days in a Blackhawks uniform shouldn’t be unceremonious. Nor should fans remember the player that he was during this last go-around season instead of who Sharp was during his prime years.
In one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory, the former third-round pick came to Chicago from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Matt Ellison and a third-round selection that turned into Ryan White. It was 2005, and the Flyers had clearly given up on Sharp. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks were in the midst of another playoff-less campaign.
Players like Kyle Calder and Mark Bell represented the “future” of the organization, while veterans such as Martin Lapointe, Matthew Barnaby and Jaroslav Spacek dotted the roster. The real future of Chicago was already starting to form, however, as Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford were all part of that 2005-06 roster along with Sharp.
There’d be two more years without playoffs, but by 2008-09, the ‘Hawks had gone from the home of Eric Daze to an organization on the cusp of becoming a dynasty.
Sharp was there for all of that. He predated Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and was part of the “Magnificent Seven” that lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups in six years. That should be the prevaling memory fans have of the Winnipeg native.
Plucked off the scrap heap and given an opportunity to shine in the Windy City, Sharp carved out an excellent career for himself in Chicago.
He’s played a whopping 744 regular season games — and counting — in a Blackhawks uniform, and has scored 240 goals and registered more than 500 points for the team. What Sharp will always be remembered for, though, will be his elevated play during the postseason.
The sniper led the entire league in goal scoring during the 2013 Stanley Cup run, and when you combine Chicago’s three Cup-winning playoff years, only Kane and Toews produced more points. All told, just five former Blackhawks have scored more playoff goals than Sharp, and he’ll finish eighth in terms of postseason games played for the franchise.
A player who has always flown under the radar on loaded Blackhawks teams, Sharp’s speed and tenacity made him an integral member of those championship squads. Generally regarded as a finisher, he’s the kind of player who had no qualms about mucking it up in front of the net or digging pucks out of corners.
His fingerprints are all over some of the biggest moments in Blackhawks history, and Chicago’s Stanley Cup drought could have lasted even longer if not for his hustle in Game 6 against the Flyers during the 2010 Final. It was Sharp who forced the turnover which led to Kane’s famous Cup-clinching goal, after all.
It’s not the part of the play that people will remember, but it’s everything Patrick Sharp was about boiled down to one clip. He’s never been one to clamor for accolades, always comfortable allowing players like Kane to remain in the spotlight. But without him forcing turnovers and scoring clutch goals, we might not be talking about a Blackhawks dynasty all these years later.
Chicago is in the midst of a youth movement now, and odds are good that Sharp won’t be back in Chicago for the 2018-19 season. Don’t remember what he was like this year, though. Instead, recall Sharp as he was when he was at his best — with the game on the line and in the middle of another long playoff run.