Joel Quenneville on benching Patrick Sharp: ‘It’s never easy’

SHARE Joel Quenneville on benching Patrick Sharp: ‘It’s never easy’
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Patrick Sharp has one goal in his last 27 games. (AP Photo)

DALLAS — Telling guys they’re out of the lineup is never a fun job for a coach, even for one as grizzled and hardened as Joel Quenneville. Telling a franchise favorite who helped you win three Stanley Cups that he’s out of the lineup is even tougher.

“Certain guys, when it’s the first time for that, it’s never easy,” Quenneville said of scratching Patrick Sharp for Thursday night’s game against the Stars.

It’s believed to be the first time Sharp has been a healthy scratch since his early days in Philadelphia more than 12 years ago. The last coach to sit him? Ken Hitchcock, who is now the coach of the Stars.

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Hitchcock, who has long been a fan of Sharp’s, pointed out that, “he’s had a heck of a career, and he’s still going to be a factor.” But he also had an interesting perspective on how the game — now predicated on blistering speed and instant transitions — has passed some veterans by and has forced them to make a difficult adjustment. Everything happens so quickly and so suddenly that patience and creativity have taken a back seat to speed and direct play.

“It’s not difficult physically for older players,” Hitchcock said. “This is a difficult mental game for older players. When Sharpie [started], and even five years ago, four years ago, the game was like tennis. And now it’s like ping-pong. And it’s getting used to this game of ping-pong where there’s sudden movement of direction that happens even in your shift, where you’re not really sure is it going south or is it going north? I think that takes a lot for older players to get used to. I think that’s the biggest adjustment, the mental adjustment that the game has to be so simplified that the creativity has to happen after simplification. And that’s hard for a lot of older guys to understand that. Once you get that, where you understand it, then you can start proceeding.

“We’ve got a couple older guys that it’s not been an easy adjustment for, either, because that’s not the game they grew up playing, that they’ve played before,” Hitchcock continued. “But it is there now. And I don’t think it’s going away. I think this is what it is. It is ping-pong.”

Sharp has three goals and six assists in 33 games. Quenneville said Sharp needs to play with more speed, and Sharp acknowledged the same thing. Quenneville noted that while Sharp isn’t happy about sitting, he’s worked hard on the ice in two practices and a morning skate, waiting for his next chance.

With Richard Panik re-entering the lineup, who knows when that chance will come?

“You go to [Ryan Hartman to Panik], guys who have produced for you, all of a sudden they’re out of the lineup,” Quenneville said. “It’s healthy for your team when you’ve got guys like that, that depth. That competitiveness … can be healthy for you team long-term.”

Panik’s pitch

Panik, who hasn’t scored in 21 games, returned to the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch. He and Quenneville both said the winger needs to be more engaged physically to recapture the form that saw him score in each of the first three games of the season.

“When you’re out, it’s not the greatest thing, but I think I’m now even more motivated, and just want to be in the lineup every night,” Panik said.

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Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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