No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.
-Helmuth von Moltke the Elder (paraphrased)
Everything about this year's Dallas Stars seems great, or at least potentially great. Twice the goalie depth of before (which is to say, there is goalie depth now); young defensemen that actually seem able to handle the workload required of them; veteran defensemen that can be relied upon; and, at last, a top six with Too Much Good Stuff.
But as von Moltke said, and as the Stars learned last year, potential and results are two very different things. On that somewhat dour note, let's talk about how great Patrick Sharp is going to be.
* * * * *
On a Friday that will live in Periscope infamy, Josh Bogorad announced the arrival of Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns to a stunned and elated crowd. Initial reactions centered around Sharp, but Stephen Johns started to garner a fair bit of interest as well once his name started to spread.
But the old adage about trades is that the team acquiring the best player wins the exchange, and despite Daley and Garbutt's contributions over the years, there was no doubt that Sharp was the marquee player in the deal. We're talking about a player who has received votes for the Hart, Selke and Lady Byng trophy in the last four seasons. We're talking about a player who put up 34 goals and 78 points in 2013-14. We are talking about someone who has won three Stanley cups over the six seasons while playing a very significant role.
Most importantly, we are talking about this guy:
Sharp's presence as both a quality person and a genuinely classy veteran will go a long way toward stabilizing a room that lost its most veteran presence in Trevor Daley. What effect that will have on the team's play may never be known with certainty, but there's little doubt that having both a Spezza and a Sharp to keep things calm will be good for players like Nichushkin, not to mention Benn and Seguin.
As for what we can expect from Patrick Sharp this year, here is what he has been over the last five seasons, which I chose somewhat arbitrarily:
So, two things about this:
1) A player entering his age-34 season should expect to see his numbers decline somewhat. Perhaps that's what happened last year, although an early injury could also have contributed to that precipitous drop. Either way, it's probably not realistic to expect even 0.9 points per game this season.
2) On the other hand, Sharp is apparently going to be playing aside two of the most prolific scores in the entire NHL this year on the Stars' top line (pending future Ruffling). That, combined with Sharp's assumed presence on the top power play, might help to balance out some of the scoring decline we would otherwise expect.
No, Sharp doesn't have the infamous wheels he once did--who among us does after hitting 28 or so?--but that doesn't mean he is altogether bereft of elite assets. After all, even a nominal amount of Selke votes still means something:
For a group that needs to lock things down defensively, this is a pretty good (albeit extreme) example of what that would look like. On the more mundane side of things, Sharp has also put up the sort of positive possession stats that one would hope to see from a player of his caliber. One would expect that to continue on this Dallas Stars team.
I think it's fair to predict something like 70+ games and 60+ points from Sharp this year--or 0.85 PPG if you don't want to predict games played--even if he ends up playing aside Spezza for a stretch here and there. This is a player with a fantastic one-timer who can put the puck on net, and the Stars have generally been happy to have such players in the fold.
While I don't expect Sharp to have quite the impact of Brett Hull's addition once upon a time, I also think it is eminently reasonable to expect Sharp's next year to be a very good one. If he can stay healthy, and if the Stars can stay focused, then Patrick Sharp may prove to be the best winger that Benn and Seguin have played with.*
*since Jason Spezza, at least