The world has been kind to Patrick Sharp. In the last year, Sharp has surpassed the 200 career goal mark, won his second Stanley Cup championship, and became a father for the second time. His fortunate run may be aided by the bad luck of another in the coming months.
Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning scoring machine, has been sidelined by a broken tibia. He underwent successful surgery and is expected to miss at least enough time to put his 2014 Winter Olympic spot on Hockey Canada in jeopardy. Patrick Sharp was not necessarily considered a lock coming into the NHL season. The Canadian hopeful list is long enough to wrap around Canada three times as the talent pool is easily the deepest of any team qualified for the round-robin hockey tournament.
Prior to the 2013-14 NHL season, TSN had an expert’s panel of Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Ray Ferraro, Pierre LeBrun, and James Duthie vote for the Canadian roster. ‘Sharpie’ was selected and projected to play on the fourth forward line alongside fellow studs Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings. If the panel was correct a few months ago, then Stamkos’ injury seals Sharp’s roster spot.
Stamkos will start rehabilitation as soon as possible. As much as Patrick Sharp deserves a roster spot on Hockey Canada, the NHL, Olympics, and game of hockey needs Steven Stamkos. In terms of popularity and skill, only Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are in the same category as ‘Stammer.’
Hockey Canada would be better off with Sharp on its roster now more than ever. ‘Sharpie’ is one of the best two-way forwards in hockey. He is a no-brainer for 30 goals per season, and is skilled in his own zone. His time on the penalty kill with the Chicago Blackhawks is null currently in large part because of Chicago’s depth at forward.
Sharp also offers versatility for Canada as a natural left winger and learned center. If Canada general manager Steve Yzerman decides to add another left wing to move Sharp to center, then thumbs up. If Yzerman wants to choose another center from the ultra-deep talent pool and leave Sharp at his natural position, thumbs up as well.
The emotional card can be played with Patrick Sharp, too. The 31-year old has yet to play with his countrymen in the Winter Olympics despite putting together a string of NHL campaigns worthy of Olympic consideration. The Blackhawks had yet to win the first of two Cups when Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook represented Canada in Vancouver in 2010, but with two rings and consistency on his side, Patrick Sharp has forced his way onto one of the best and deepest Olympic teams in recent history.
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