Monday, March 21, 2011
If Sharp misses time, who will step up?
By Jesse Rogers
Patrick Sharp needed to be helped off the ice after a collision Sunday in Phoenix.
It would be a huge blow to the Chicago Blackhawks' chances to repeat as Stanley Cup champs if the injury Patrick Sharp suffered on Sunday in Phoenix keeps him out for an extended period of time.
The Hawks were off on Monday, and there was no word on Sharp's condition.
Sharp, who collided with the Coyotes' Rostislav Klesla, is enjoying a marvelous season. His 34 goals and 34 assists speak to his consistency on offense, and his 'A' on his jersey speaks to his leadership in the dressing room. So how much will he be missed and who will attempt to replace him if he misses time?
The Hawks' top line was as good as any when Sharp joined Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in February. It would have a drop off, but which player would best fit if Sharp is shelved?
Handicapping the field:
Viktor Stalberg, 44%: Stalberg gets the edge simply because he finished the Phoenix game in Sharp's spot. His speed holds up with Toews and Kane, but does his hockey sense? He turned into an effective up-and-down player on the fourth line, but that won't always be what Toews and Kane need. Still, he's been more noticeable on the ice than a lot of the other candidates lately so he might get first crack.
Troy Brouwer, 40%: It's been said and written before about him: He's played his best hockey as a Hawk with Toews and Kane, but then again most do. Usually Brouwer has some sort of drop-off after a nice run, which forces Joel Quenneville to move him down a line or two. In fact, he took over for Sharp in Phoenix, but by the time the third period came along it was Stalberg playing in that spot. The best thing going for Brouwer is his history with Toews and Kane. The three would have the quickest chance at instant chemistry. At this time of the year, it's no small thing.
Bryan Bickell, 10%: Many forget Bickell had a run on the top line late in the year last season and even started the playoffs with Toews and Kane. More recently, the Hawks liked his skill enough to play him on the second line after playing most of the year on the third. Though he plays more skilled than big, his combination could come in handy below the red line, freeing up Toews and Kane even more. He's behind the other candidates simply because he hasn't played with them this year, but it wouldn't be a complete shock if Quenneville went that way.
Viktor Stalberg may be the most likely to play on the top line if Patrick Sharp misses time.
Marian Hossa, 6%: They've tried it before but without much luck. And it would mean loading up on one line while the rest of the offense would be in some disarray. If they try it, why not move Hossa to left wing instead of Kane? Kane looks uncomfortable there and maybe Hossa will too, but they won't know until they try it. Plus, with the three of them working their magic, is there really a left and right wing once they're deep into the neutral or offensive zone? Hossa is the veteran, he should offer to move there if the Hawks want the trio to play together.
As well as the Hawks top line has been playing since Sharp joined them in February, he would possibly be missed most on the power play. His 12 power play goals are tied for third best in the league.
Let's handicap the replacement options -- if needed -- on the power play:
Chris Campoli, 95%: After his game-winning goal on the power play on Sunday he's probably the guy to get it done. He was Sharp-esque going back door where Toews found him for his first goal as a Hawk. If Brian Campbell remains out, Campoli is a lock to remain on the point on the power play. Even with Campbell, Campoli should join Seabrook and Keith as the four point men when the Hawks go on the man advantage.
Nick Leddy, 5%: There really is no other option. The Hawks are already thin up front, so it's doubtful they would look to another forward to man the point. Leddy possesses the ability to move the puck and his shot is becoming more and more of a weapon. But there is no reason to choose him over Campoli, who has more experience. They were both on the point for the winning goal on Sunday, so if Campbell remains out than Leddy probably has a spot for now.