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Moving Forward at Defense

by Ann Frazier / San Jose Sharks

Brent Burns: loves post-game pizza, has a lot of tattoos, possibly turning into a wookiee, very philanthropic, and after a one year sabbatical as a forward, has resumed his position as being one of the top offensive defensemen in the league.

After spending the latter part of 2012-13 and all of the 2013-14 season as a forward, Burns made the switch back to the position he had played for most of his NHL career. Though the move might have been questioned by some only due to his incredible effectiveness as a power forward, he reacted to the switch by posting career highs in both points and assists.

Brent Burns
Defense  - SJS
Goals: 17 | Assists: 43 | Pts: 60
1st A: 24 | P/60: 1.83
With 43 assists and 60 points, Burns improved on his previous career bests by 14 assists. He ranked second among NHL defensemen in points, behind only Erik Karlsson of the Senators. Burns was also second among defensemen in first assists, with 24 of his 43 helpers falling in that category.

Burns was particularly effective on the power play, and one of the key reasons why San Jose had the 6th ranked man-advantage in the league. According to war-on-ice.com, he led all defensemen in scoring chances for per 60 minutes, with Burns registering 68.34 scoring chances for his team every 60 minutes. When Burns was on the ice on a power play, the Sharks registered 275 more shots than the other team, second among defensemen. He was also third among defensemen in power play goals with 7 tallies with the extra attacker.

This production led to Burns representing the Sharks in Columbus at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, the second time he had been selected for that honor in his career. Drafted by Team Foligno, Burns registered his first All-Star Game goal in a 17-12 loss to Team Toews, though he aided Team Foligno’s win in the skills competition.

Teammates and coaches alike had praise for the beast of the blueline. “[Burns was] probably one of our brightest spots this year,” said Joe Thornton. “Wherever you put this guy, this guy’s a machine.”

Legendary Hall of Fame defenseman and Sharks director of player development Larry Robinson also had high praise for Burns, giving him the highest rating out of all Sharks defensemen.

For the fourth time in his career, Burns is headed to the IIHF World Championships in the Czech Republic to represent Canada. In 23 games previously at the World Championships, Burns registered 5 goals and 13 assists. Team Canada will look to Burns to be the anchor and leader of a young Canada defense while providing his signature offensive flair.

Burns’ success this season isn’t limited to his on-ice contributions. For the second consecutive season, Burns was nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy by his teammates. Given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made noteworthy humanitarian contributions in his community, Burns typifies the type of player deserving of this award. His off-ice contributions are too numerous to count, from the popular Burnzie’s Buzzcut to Defending the Blueline. He served as the leader of a defense plagued by injuries, being the only defenseman to play all 82 games.

Notably, Burns was awarded the California Commendation Medal earlier this year for his support of military members and their families primarily through his work with Defending the Blue Line. The California Commendation Medal is the highest award a civilian is able to receive, an honor that underscores the work Burns does with the military both publicly and privately.

In a year of transition for the San Jose Sharks, Burns’ own successful transition from forward back to defense shone bright.

Rumor has it, the successful return to defense caused one scruffy-looking nerfherder to turn to Burns and say, “Chewie, we’re home.”

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