Last week, the final numbers from the fan voting were revealed and the top vote recipients were named “starters.” There were two Blackhawks included in that group of six: Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. The other four starters were all from Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang.
On Tuesday, the people in operations with the NHL will name 36 players to the 2011 All Star Game. When that takes place, there is no question that Patrick Sharp’s name should be included.
Of the 36 players that will be named on Tuesday, 24 will be forwards. This year, the scoring leaderboard in the NHL is being dominated by centers; 12 of the league’s top 20 scorers play center (at least in some capacity) entering Monday’s night’s action. Sharp is currently tied with Alex Ovechkin for 11th in the NHL with 44 points, and is tied with Henrik Sedin for third with 25 goals. Of the 12 centers in the top 20, Sharp ranks seventh in points and is tied with Sedin for third among centers behind Crosby and Steven Stamkos.
If scoring is the only criteria we look at, and we consider Sharp a center, he should be at the All Star Game.
If someone wants to argue that Sharp has played more games than some of the other forwards that are eligible for the game, there is an easy rebuttal. Only 18 regular NHL players are averaging at least one point per game this year. Sharp is one of those 18.
There is more to hockey than just scoring, though (of course).
If we’re going to consider Sharp a center, then faceoffs should matter. If we again compare Sharp to the top 12 scoring centers, his 49.5 win percentage at the dot ranks seventh behind Crosby, Ryan Kesler, Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Sedin. Only Crosby, Zetterberg and Sedin have scored more points with a better faceoff percentage than Sharp.
If we add Toews to the list of centers that should/will be at the All Star Game (an honor that he has certainly earned), by my calculations it appears that Sharp should be second, maybe third line center in the Game. Based on faceoffs and scoring, Sharp is one of the top five centers in the game right now.
But, of course, that isn’t the entire story. If hockey was nothing but faceoffs and scoring, it wouldn’t be very exciting.
And if players only played one position, like a quarterback or third baseman, it would be easier to slot players for the All Star Game.
Let’s remember that Sharp is also a left wing.
If we stack Sharp up against other left wings in the league this year, it becomes even more clear that he should be at the game in Raleigh. Only Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson have more points at left wing than Sharp (and Ovechkin, also a left wing, is tied with Sharp). Again, based on scoring, Sharp is one of the four best left wings in the league.
Taking center out of the equation a step further, only Corey Perry and Martin St. Louis have more points than Sharp at right wing this year. Based on offensive production, Sharp is a third line forward at any position on either team this year. He is absolutely a top-12 forward in the NHL this season.
Finally, Sharp has been clutch. His six game-winning goals are tied with Stamkos and Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien for the NHL lead.
The All Star Game is supposed to celebrate the best players in the game, certainly the most exciting. Sharp is absolutely elite.
But once the players arrive at the stadium, the game becomes about versatility. Which forwards can play more than one position is a big factor, especially in this year’s fantasy draft format. The fact that Sharp is not only an elite scorer, but also winning more faceoffs than many of the top centers should also solidify his place at the game.