Now Burns will get to try a slightly different position: forward in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then, maybe someday, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
"What he's done for our team is a lot like [Colin] Kaepernick for the 49ers," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News about Burns. "He has the ability to roam around and be somewhat reckless at times."
Kaepernick emerged during the season and propelled the 49ers to this year's Super Bowl, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. If Burns can keep up his top-line play for the Sharks, he will bring a new, necessary dimension to his team's dogged pursuit of a championship.
When Burns returned from a leg injury March 12, he was used as right wing on a line with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. TJ Galiardi eventually replaced Couture, and that's how the Sharks likely will line up when the postseason begins.
"Obviously it's been going well, but playing with [Thornton], he has such good vision on the ice, and Galiardi, we really found good chemistry," Burns said. "[TJ is] fast, he gets it in deep, and I think it's been going well. I have a lot of fun."
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Burns has a physical presence unfamiliar to Sharks opponents and quite necessary in the playoffs.
"He's an animal out there. He's reckless, but in a good way," Couture told the San Francisco Chronicle about Burns.
Burns had six points (two goals) in his first four games up front and has remained consistent, never going more than two games without a point until three games from April 18-23. After not scoring in six games as a defenseman, he had 20 points (nine goals) in 24 games.
Burns' emergence allowed coach Todd McLellan to split the familiar pair of Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who led the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals twice in 2010 and 2011 but never further.
McLellan has been able to create another high-quality trio with Marleau, Couture and Martin Havlat, letting Joe Pavelski play on the third line and giving the Sharks good depth up front. The blue line, which learned to play without Burns while he was sidelined, hasn't missed him back there either.
He did play as a defenseman once when Jason Demers was out injured, but McClellan quickly moved Burns back up front.
"There's a lot less pressure (as a forward), just different pressure, I think," Burns said. "[You can] kind of go a little bit and you have a lot more people behind you to cover up. It's fun. I really don't mind either position, so …"
There's no word yet on how he feels about quarterback.