Burns Having Rare Season for Defenseman
When talking about the top scoring defensemen in the NHL, the conversation usually turns to Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and with good reason. After all, he did just lead the NHL in assists with 66 and finished tops among defensemen with 82 points, tied for fourth in the NHL. He is a generational performer in terms of his offensive ability and there should be plenty of conversations about him.
But lost in the shuffle a bit is another standout, one who has swapped from forward to defense a number of times throughout his career a la Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets. That’s right, Brent Burns is having a dominant season and no one seems to be noticing.
What has Burns done this year? Oh, nothing much. He just led the league’s defensemen in goals with 27, the most a defenseman has registered since Washington’s Mike Green potted 31 back in 2008-09. Just as impressively, he finished right on the fringe of the top 10 in scoring, placing 11th with 75 points. Any time a defenseman can threaten the top 10 in scoring, he is having a flat out dominant season and Burns had just that.
Not to be finished there, Burns has been outstanding in postseason play for a Sharks team that is three wins away from its first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Burns is currently second among all skaters in scoring during postseason play, posting 18 points in 14 games, trailing only teammate Logan Couture (19 points) while tying him for the playoff-lead in assists with a dozen. The next closest defenseman in scoring is Washington’s John Carlson with 12 and they got eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Burns has always been an impressive package of size, speed and skill, almost defying a specific role thanks to gifts that not many hockey players possess. The fact that he is dominating on the ice should come as little surprise to those who have watched him closely throughout the years. It just so happens that he is having his best season in the midst of a surprising and fun playoff run from a Sharks outfit that few expected to reach the Western Conference Final.
If the Sharks advance to their first ever Stanley Cup Final and, God forbid, win the thing, there will be lots of credit given out to Couture, sniper Joe Pavelski and veteran pivot Joe Thornton. But when it comes time to hand out the Conn Smythe Trophy to the playoff MVP, don’t be surprised if the bearded wonder — who is well on his way to physically becoming Chewbacca — is the one hoisting the trophy.
Move over, Karlsson. You’ve got some stiff competition out west.