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Central: Hawks made a pretty Sharp trade

by Larry Wigge

Patrick Sharp’s trade to Chicago is one of the most one-sided deals in the NHL in the last decade.
No one ever accused Patrick Sharp of not being focused and driven. But it would be safe to say that there was some uncertainty about Sharp’s future when he was traded by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Chicago Blackhawks in December 2005.

You see, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native sustained a concussion in his last game with the Flyers and he wasn’t quite himself.

"It probably wasn’t the smartest move to keep on playing,” Sharp said. “But I had been waiting for so long to get a real chance to play in the NHL. I wasn’t going to waste any opportunities. I wasn’t knocked out in my last game with the Flyers, but it took a good month before I felt like I was back to normal."

There’s nothing normal about Patrick Sharp’s story. He has always had to prove himself to coaches and scouts. When he was 15, he wasn’t even drafted by a junior team because of his diminutive stature.

"I was 5-foot-7, 140-pounds playing against guys 6-1, 6-2 and nearly 200 pounds," Sharp said.

But being undrafted didn’t rattle Sharp. It just made him more determined to prove the skeptics wrong. By the time he was about 17, he grew to 6-1, 190-pounds and spurned the Ontario Hockey League for the University of Vermont. In his freshman year, scouts finally began to notice his speed, tenacity and hockey smarts. The Flyers selected him in the third round (No. 95 overall) in the 2001 Entry Draft.

Now, seven years later, all of Sharp’s hard work is finally paying off. He had worked his way into the NHL as a depth forward who kills penalties, but this season he has taken on an increased roll. Now, with 12 goals and eight assists in 25 games, Sharp is a scoring threat for Chicago coach Denis Savard.

That scoring touch has made Sharp’s trade to Chicago one of the most one-sided deals in the NHL in the last decade. Think about it, Sharp and Eric Meloche were sent from Philadelphia to Chicago for winger Matt Ellison and a third-round draft choice. Sharp is the only player still in the NHL and he has the most goals on the Blackhawks and appears headed to a 30-plus goal season -- especially with his recent promotion, which has him playing alongside rookie sensations Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Sharp’s work ethic comes from his parents. Patrick’s dad, who was born in Scotland and adopted as an infant by a Canadian family, ran a successful doughnut business, which started out as one store, Robin’s Doughnut Shop, in 1975. The elder Sharp has expanded the business to more than 400 shops throughout Canada and the United States. His mom worked in the doughnut business as well, until Patrick and his older brother Chris were born.

The best advice Sharp ever got came from his dad.

"I always remember him telling me not to get sidetracked, to pick something in life that excited me and give it all I’ve got," Sharp said. "From the days when I would tag along with my brother, Chris, I always wanted to be a hockey player.

"I never forgot, or got sidetracked, from the thought that a lot of younger players I played with coming through the ranks got chances when I knew I was better than them."

And it all started in the Sharp’s driveway with his brother and the neighborhood NHL wannabes.

"I was always Mike Modano, even if I didn’t have his size or speed," Sharp said. "The other player I started watching when I got to Vermont was Martin St. Louis. I remember admiring the way he beat the odds -- scouts saying he was too small to make it -- all the way to NHL MVP and a Stanley Cup."

At Vermont, Sharp completed two years of a business degree. "I always liked math and finance," he said. "If I wasn’t a hockey player I would work in the small business field. I would have been proud to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”

For now, he’ll make more dough in hockey.

"He does things naturally that all coaches want from their players," said Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, Sharp’s former coach in Philadelphia. "He's a good player with the puck and a very, very intelligent hockey player without it. He never looks out of place at center or either wing. He has skill and quickness. But most of all, he’s smart and has a natural hockey instinct for the game."

Denis Savard’s promotion from assistant to head coach was enabled Sharp take on more responsibility.

"He gave me a chance," Sharp said. "He also brought in a skating style and encouraged us to be creative. Not just dumping and chasing, skating up and down the wings. I take advantage of my skills."

"Sharpie (Sharp) showed he belongs in the League in the last 40 games last season," Savard said. "He plays an up-tempo game. He can handle the puck, he can shoot and he plays with an edge, every night."

Sharp remembers every twist and turn of his career from that long trek on a Thunder Bay driveway so many years ago.


Around the Central Division -- The NHL should beware of the Detroit Red Wings’ elite goaltending tandem of Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood. Osgood has been playing at an elite level. And, historically, December has been Hasek’s best month. “The Dominator” was 10-1 last October and 6-2-2 in October 2005. Hasek stopped 15 of 16 shots in a 4-1 triumph in Montreal Dec. 4 -- his first start in 12 days, after he was 0-3 with a 4.26 goals-against average in his previous three starts. Hasek set an interesting record in the victory -- the largest age gap between starting goalies -- when the 42-year, 309-day-old goaltender faced the 20-year, 110-day-old Carey Price. The largest previous gap was 23 years, 289 days when Minnesota’s 44-year-old goaltender Gump Worsley faced St. Louis’ 20-year-old John Davidson on Nov. 22, 1973. ... Pavel Datsyuk has scored seven goals and three assists in his last five games. ... Most of the talk about Detroit’s defense revolves around perennial Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, newcomer Brian Rafalski and the ageless Chris Chelios. But Niklas Kronwall is garnering a lot of important minutes on the Detroit blue line. The first-round pick, (No. 29 in 2000) is in his second full season with the Wings and has improved his offensive output. Kronwall scored two goals and seven assists in 23 games this season, which is a solid increase compared to the one goal and 21 assists he recorded in 68 games last season. His goal in Montreal came on the heels of a three-game assist streak, which included an assist on the game-winner in a 3-2 triumph over Phoenix Dec. 1. ...Detroit’s power play converted in nine consecutive games. ... When the St. Louis Blues traded young center prospect Carl Soderberg to Boston for backup goalie Hannu Toivonen, they hoped the first-round pick (No. 29 in 2002) would play a more economical style with the help of goaltending coach Rick Wamsley. Toivonen gives St. Louis a productive backup goalie. After No. 1 goalie Manny Legace tweaked his right knee in the warmup in Calgary Dec. 4, coach Andy Murray didn’t feel uncomfortable starting Toivonen. The Finish native stopped 34 of 37 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Flames, but he came into the game with a 4-2 record, 1.81 goals-against average and .927 save percentage, including three-straight wins. Last season St. Louis didn’t have a backup with a .500 record, Curtis Sanford was 8-12-5, Jason Bacashihua was 3-7-3 and Marek Schwarz was 0-1. ... Lee Stempniak’s five-shot effort in a 3-0 victory against Calgary Nov. 25 was a sign that the former Dartmouth sniper was ready to break out. Stempniak scored 41 goals in his first 139 NHL games, but had gone cold this season. He ended his 19-game goal-less skid in Minnesota Nov. 30 and then scored in his next three games. ... Late bloomer for Columbus? Not much attention was paid around to the Blue Jackets’ trade, which landed Columbus Curtis Glencross and Zenon Konopka in a minor-league deal from Anaheim for Mark Hartigan and Joe Motzko last January. But Glencross, who was another of several undrafted free agents by Anaheim who made it to the NHL, is beginning to look like a real find for the Jackets. He’s already scored five goals in 20 games and is also providing a lot of grit in the Columbus lineup. Glencross scored two goals Dec. 1, including the overtime game-winner against Calgary. Glencross was only the third rookie in Blue Jackets history to score an overtime goal. Rick Nash accomplished the feat on March 6, 2003 vs. Vancouver and Jaroslav Balastik did it again Dec. 26, 2005 vs. Chicago). ... The Blue Jackets found a way to overcome injury trouble Dec. 5 in a game against the Colorado Avalanche at Nationwide Arena. With center Jiri Novotny sidelined with a concussion and Manny Malhotra out of the lineup with a sprained knee Columbus was thin up the middle. Dan Fritsche was able to move from right wing to center and capped a four-goal third period with the game-winning goal at 15:55 of the third period. Kris Beech was recalled from the Syracuse Crunch and played with Fritsche and Jason Chimera and contributed three assists – his first three-point game in the NHL. Beech scored one goal and four assists in four games this season after being signed as a free agent by the Jackets on Aug. 7. Beech’s claim to fame was being drafted seventh overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by Washington. Beech was subsequently traded to Pittsburgh on July 11, 2001 in a five-player deal for Jaromir Jagr. ... Nikolai Zherdev is making a name for himself with the Blue Jackets. He scored his 10th goal Dec. 5 against Colorado, which equaling his total last season. ... Scoring in Chicago? You bet. Since 1996-97, the Blackhawks have scored more than 211 goals once. Last season, the Hawks were 28th with 201 goals. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were expected to show off their rookie skills and Robert Lang was signed as a free agent for his offensive capability. But the biggest surprise in Chicago’s offense is the production from the defense, where the Hawks’ defensemen, who combined for 21 goals all of last season, have


already netted 20 goals this season. The biggest surprise from that group is Dustin Byfuglien, who has a team-leading six goals in 15 games among defenseman. Byfuglien recorded a natural hat trick against Phoenix on Nov. 30. Byfuglien became only the third Chicago defenseman to score a hat trick in a regular season game, joining Dick Redmond in 1977 and Doug Wilson in 1991. Byfuglien impressed Savard with his offensive abilty and has been moved up to a forward position on a line with Martin Havlat and Robert Lang. ... Chicago has scored 23 power-play goals, which are more than half of the 43 goals they scored with the man advantage last season. Add to that their league-leading 10 shorthanded goals they have and it’s easy to see why the Blackhawks are opening a lot of eyes. ... It’s hard to believe that no player in Predators’ history had 10 shots on goal in a game. Captain Jason Arnott shattered the club record of nine shots in a game when he had 12 shots against Toronto’s Vesa Toskala Dec. 4. The only problem: No goals were scored on any of those chances. ... Jed Ortmeyer scored his first goal as a Predator, and the team's first shorthanded goal this season Dec. 1 at Montreal in the former New York Rangers’ 200th NHL game. Ortmeyer continued contributing offensively with a goal against Vancouver Dec. 6. The week ahead: No rivalry was more intense last season than Detroit-Nashville. The third of eight games this season comes Dec. 10 at Nashville. Both games between the Red Wings and Predators this season have been ended in 3-2 scores. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk scored in a shootout in a Detroit victory Nov. 7. The Predators rallied from a 2-1 deficit late in the second period in Nashville with a Martin Erat goal with 52 seconds left in the second period and another tally by Radek Bonk 2:22 into the third period Nov. 22. ... Dan Hinote’s only two goals in 19 games this season came in St. Louis’ 4-1 victory over Colorado at home Oct. 12 -- against Hinote’s old team, the Avalanche. Hinote, will skate into Denver again Dec. 9.


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