Characterized by a big shot, numerous off-ice endeavors and that universally recognized lifestyle beard, Brent Burns is now also known for something else: A Norris Trophy winner.
Burns on Wednesday night became the first member of the San Jose Sharks to win the prestigious honor in Las Vegas during the 2017 NHL Awards ceremony. The Norris is emblematic of the league's top defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.
"I would like to thank my teammates, without them this isn't possible. They put up with a lot - lot of animal yelling from me, giving me the puck all night," the defenseman said following his big win. "To the whole Sharks organization, thanks for the support and believing in me from the start. To my family, thanks for everything and getting me to this position."
Video: Brent Burns is presented the Norris Trophy
Burns caps a career-best regular season with the major award after setting Sharks' club records for goals (29) and points (76) by a defenseman for a season straight season. The difference in winning the Norris instead of recognized as a finalist after last season is the fact Burns improved his plus-minus from minus-5 to plus-19.
Burns, who was also a finalist for the Ted Lindsay award going to Edmonton's Connor McDavid, out-distanced Ottawa's two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman in a vote conducted by members of the Pro Hockey Writers' Association.
"He so deserves it. He's one of the most dominant players in this league. Aside from being a great player, he's an amazing person. I'm very happy for both him and Susan and their entire family," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said about Burns. "What's special about him is that he remembers where he came from and he appreciates everybody who's been there for him. We're happy that we've got him for a long time now too. I think his best hockey is ahead of him."
The 32-year-old native of Barrie, Ontario, has displayed consistent and steady improvement on San Jose's blue line since acquired in an offsesaon trade from Minnesota in 2011. Burns has scored 115 goals and 316 points during 426 games in San Jose spanning six campaigns in addition to 12 goals and 36 points in 53 playoff games with the Sharks.
Burns used his lethal delivery from the blue line to lead the NHL in shots this season. His 320 on net were seven more than Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who has led the league in shots 10 times.
"I've never seen a release like that," Wilson said. "I've never seen a release from a defenseman like that to change the angle, it's his size, the athleticism and his strength. Everybody's trying to stop it, but it's very difficult."
In addition, Burns finished tied for third among NHL blueliners in assists with 47, was tied for second with eight power-play goals and ranked first by producing six game-winning goals. His total of 29 was 18th highest for a single-season total by an NHL defenseman, and Burns is the first rear guard to post back-to-back 75-point seasons since Brian Leetch in 1995-97.
"When we acquired him we expected him to be a dominant defenseman in this league, and he's fulfilled that," said Wilson, a Norris winner with Chicago in 1982. "As a player, as a member of this organization and a member of this community we're so proud of Burnzie. He's a special player, a special person and we're proud of him."
The Norris represents the final award of a special season for Burns, who was also named the Sharks' Foundation Sharks Player of the Year, the Sharks' Fan Favorite award winner, appeared in the 2017 NHL All-Star Game for a second straight year, was the NHL's Third Star for the month of January all after helping Team Canada win the 2016 World Cup tourney just before the regular season commenced.
"As far as I'm concerned he's the most dominant player in the game," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "I think that highly of him. He just has an inner drive that keeps pushing himself. I know how much he puts in during the offseason, how much be puts in during practice. And he's our most talented guy, which says a lot."
Burns joins a list of Sharks' major award winners that includes Thornton (Hart and Art Ross Trophy in 2005-06), Evgeni Nabokov (Calder Trophy in 2000-01), Jonathan Cheechoo (Rocket Richard Trophy in 2005-06) and Tony Granato (Masterton Trophy in 1996-97).