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Stars benefiting from Sharp’s experience, leadership

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Ask people in the Dallas Stars organization what Patrick Sharp has meant to the team this season, and no one mentions goals, assists or points. They talk about contributions you won’t find on the stats sheet.

“Veteran leadership,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

“Calm and composure on and off the ice,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn.

“It’s the demeanor on the ice and the little things,” added GM Jim Nill.

Sure, Sharp can score goals, and he has for the Stars. But the Stars knew they could score as a team. What they needed was to learn how to win and Sharp – who has three Stanley Cups on his resume – knows how to do that. And Nill was looking to add winning experience when he brought in Sharp, defenseman Johnny Oduya and goaltender Antti Niemi, who all won Cups in Chicago.

“Patrick has brought everything and more [than we expected],” Nill said. “He is as advertised. He is a very good hockey player. It’s amazing when guys come from winning organizations.”

In the case of Sharp, it’s those little things Nill mentioned.

“The backchecking, the pucks around the boards and winning the puck battles,” Nill said.

That rubs off on other players.

“It has to. When your top guys are playing the right way – and he is one of them – you have someone to follow,” said Benn.

“It sets the bar,” said Nill. “When you are sitting on the bench in a game, you see him backcheck and catch a guy from behind and turn the puck around the other way, you know that you’ve got to do the same thing. It’s a process for the younger guys, but it’s important to show what it takes to win. [Sharp] is a star player and an offensive threat, a goal scorer and a lot of times people think they don’t have to do that but to win you have to.”

There’s that veteran demeanor; the calm Sharp brings when games go a little sideways.

“You can tell he is an experienced player,” said Benn. “He’s talking a lot more now. On the bench in the intense situations, he’s telling guys to keep playing and be composed out there. There is no need to panic. It’s nice to hear that sometimes.”

Sharp has helped play a role in keeping the Stars on an even keel after both wins and losses.

“He knows how to level off the highs and lows,” Ruff said. “We put away losses. We don’t sit on a win and think we’re better than we are. We know that every game if you don’t put the work in and you’re not the hardest-working team, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose the game. Our team’s been good at putting that behind us, and I think some of that comes from a guy like Patrick and Johnny.”

As for Sharp, he shrugs off talk of his leadership. He said he’s just trying to be a good teammate and help the team win hockey games.

“I am just looking to fit in whatever way I can,” Sharp said. “I knew this was a good team on the rise; I was excited for the opportunity to come down and play with these guys. I am just doing whatever I can to fit in.”

Sharp has been the consummate pro. He’s been bounced around the lineup, playing on the first line, second and third. When Jason Demers went out with an injury and Ruff juggled his power play units, and Sharp to the second unit. No big deal for Sharp.

“Wherever Lindy puts me in the lineup, I want to make sure I do my job,” Sharp said. “I am just going to go out there and try to make whatever unit I am on successful, score some goals and be a difference in the game.”

“I think he understands that I’m using him in a lot of different places,” Ruff said. “There’s no ‘I need to play here. I need to play with these guys.’ I’ll tell him we’ll have you in the slot on the power play, and that’s great. I can tell him that he’s going to play the right point, and that’s great. I think it’s just that ‘I’ll give you wherever you need me’ type of attitude, and it doesn’t matter where you play me.”

The Stars acquired Sharp from Chicago along with defense prospect Stephen Johns in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt. Sharp knew that Chicago would need to move some contracts to get under the salary cap, so the trade was no surprise. But he had a no-trade clause, and that gave him a say in how the process played out. He saw the Dallas Stars as a good fit.

“Playing against them in the Central Division for a number of years I could tell they were a team going in the right direction, starting with the coaching staff, general manager and the core group of players that they had here,” Sharp said. “The building, the city, everything appealed to me and my family. We were very excited to join the organization.”

Along with his three Stanley Cups in Chicago, Sharp has also won an Olympic gold medal (2014) and a Calder Cup championship (2005). He knows how to win and what makes teams successful. Sharp was asked early in the season about that one intangible inherent in a winning team. Sharp said it was a tight locker room. It’s something he saw upon his arrival in Dallas.

“Since I’ve been here, the thing I’ve noticed is how much these guys care about each other in the locker room,” Sharp said. “You can tell they’ve spent some time together, come up through the minor league system together. They are ready to win together, and that’s a great thing to be a part of.”

There was an adjustment on the ice as Sharp got to know his new teammates and their tendencies. He didn’t score a goal in the first eight games, but experience told him the goals would come, and they did. He rattled off seven goals in a stretch of eight games. Through 33 games, Sharp is fourth on the team in goals (11) and fourth in points (24).

There was an adjustment to living in Dallas as well, but it has gone better than expected. There was, of course, the process of figuring out a new daily routine as he headed to the rink for practices and the American Airlines Center for games, but that came with a little time.

“It’s a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. That’s a credit to Dallas and everything that it offers,” Sharp said. “Great city to live in, very easy to get around, people are friendly, the organization has been first class, and I have some great friends on the Stars.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I use that word a lot. It’s fun to play the game; it’s fun coming to the rink. The team is awesome. The guys are fun to play with. I am having a great time.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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