PHILADELPHIA -- When Patrick Sharp arrived in Philadelphia in 2002, the Winnipeg native looked around the locker room, saw veteran centers Jeremy Roenick, Keith Primeau and Michal Handzus ahead of him on the depth chart, and knew his immediate future involved a seat in the press box and a full-time AHL roster spot.
But after three-plus seasons of having him shuttle from the AHL to the NHL (in Philadelphia, a walk across the parking lot from the Spectrum to the Wachovia Center), the Flyers cut bait with Sharp, trading him to Chicago for minor-league forward Matt Ellison and a draft pick.
The move gave Sharp the opportunity he never would have had in Philadelphia -- and during the last five seasons, he's developed into not only a go-to offensive threat in Chicago's vaunted attack, but a strong two-way player and on- and off-ice leader.
"Sharpie's been a big part of our team," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Leadership, consistency of his game, he's been a top scorer for us, he plays in all situations -- power play, penalty kill, regular shifts, versatility, playing on the wing."
Sharp knew that kind of opportunity never was going to happen in Philadelphia. A 2001 third-round pick who spent two seasons at the University of Vermont, Sharp had a total of 10 goals in 63 games over parts of three seasons with the Flyers. He was playing mostly on the third and fourth lines, and outside of an injury, he didn't look to be moving from that spot.
So when the opportunity came to move to Chicago, on Dec. 5, 2005, he embraced it -- even though the Blackhawks then were near the bottom of the League standings.
"Leaving Philadelphia, I understood the situation here," said Sharp, who was 24 at the time of the trade. "They were a first-place team, pushing for a championship, and it was tough to break into that lineup. I was thankful for the Flyers trading me to a great place that gave me the chance to play.
"When I got traded to Chicago, they were a team that was developing in all areas, and they gave me the opportunity to play in all situations."
His first full season in Chicago, 2006-07, he had 20 goals in 80 games, then came back the next season with 36 goals, including a League-high seven while shorthanded. This season, playing all 82 games for the first time, he had 25 goals and a career-best 66 points, along with a personal-best plus-24 rating.
He finished the playoffs third in the League with 11 goals and fifth with 22 points in 22 games, following his goal in Game 6. he's third in the League with 10 goals and fifth with 21 points, and he averaged 17:51 per game in ice time. He also logged big minutes on the penalty kill (1:08 per game) and the power play (3:20 per game, third on the team) while playing both center and the wing with a variety of linemates.
"We've got him back at center, we felt we needed a little bit more depth in that area and he moved right back into the middle for us," said Quenneville. "That filled a big need for us, and created a top scoring line for us, as well. He's been very successful and consistent in the playoffs. We like his approach and the options he gives us."
Now a 28-year-old veteran leader on a young Chicago team, Sharp has been an alternate captain since October 2007, and has a big role in the team's fortunes.
When John Madden played for the New Jersey Devils, he remembered playing against Sharp when he was trying to break into the Philadelphia lineup. Now that he gets to play on the same side, he sees a far more well-developed player.
"I remember Sharpie was a really offensive player when he was in Philadelphia," Madden said. "I remember him always on the go, always trying to score goals. Now that I see him in the role he's in now, he's a great two-way player. He's still offensive and great like that, but now he's a great leader -- he's grown up a lot in terms of how he approaches the games. I can tell that already just by being around him. It's fun to play with him. He's done a lot of good things for our hockey club this year. He's a great player."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org