When the San Jose Sharks moved Brent Burns from defense to right wing midway through the 2012-13 season, he provided instant offense and made the transition look easy.
Entering the 2014-15 season, the question is whether Burns can make the return trip to defense look just as smooth after a season and a half away from the blue line.
Defense - SJS
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 26 | PTS: 48
SOG: 245 | +/-: 26
"We acquired him in a trade to be a stud defenseman," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "To find a guy at that size who can shoot and skate that's played in this League and been an All-Star as a defenseman, we don't think there's going to be any issue there, and especially if you're working with [associate coach] Larry Robinson
and [assistant coach] Jim Johnson
"It's also something that Brent really wants to do. In my conversation with him, he views himself as a defenseman. Having that big body back there that can be creative and also shoot the puck like he does, we think will be a great asset to our team."
San Jose acquired the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Burns on June 24, 2011, from the Minnesota Wild for forwards Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. Burns had 17 goals and 29 assists -- both career highs -- in his final season in Minnesota, the only All-Star campaign so far in his career.
Wilson announced Burns' return to defense on May 14, the same day he revealed that the Sharks were not going to re-sign veteran defenseman Dan Boyle. Boyle had been the Sharks' biggest offensive threat and most-skilled puck mover on the blue line.
The Sharks needed someone to fill that offensive void on the blue line and to be a force at both ends of the ice. Defensemen with Burns' size and skill set are rare, Wilson said.
"You don't see many. The [Drew] Doughtys, the [P.K.] Subbans, those are guys that create offense from the back and then on top of that ability, the size that he has," Wilson said. "In the West you play against some pretty big players, and being able to clear the crease and contain the [Ryan] Getzlafs and the [Corey] Perrys and [Anze] Kopitars and players like that, we're excited about him going back there."
Forward Logan Couture said Burns' firepower will be missed up front, but he's excited to see what Burns can produce in his returns to the blue line.
"It's weird when you think about Brent Burns and how good of a forward he was when he moved up front," Couture said. "Then you remember he was an NHL All-Star as a defenseman and he scored almost 20 goals as a defenseman. I'm looking forward to it. He's always entertaining when he's on the ice.
"He's a force when he's on the ice. He's big, he's strong. He defends well and he's got a great shot from the back end. He's one of the few players that can go back and forth. He's so versatile. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do on the back end this year."
Defenseman Jason Demers also welcomed Burns' return to the blue line.
"I think it's good," Demers said. "He's such an athlete, a natural athlete. He's obviously a complete physical specimen. I've worked out with him in the summer and tried to keep up with him. He's an animal. He's got the hockey knowledge to make that transition."