2011-12 San Jose Sharks: Brent Burns Report Card
A monumental trade last summer was designed to put the two-time conference finalist San Jose Sharks over the top.
San Jose gave up a younger Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle and dropped the team's first pick in this year's draft (since traded for Dominic Moore, anyway) by more than 20 places. In return, they got 2011 All-Star defenceman Brent Burns.
Since they were the second team eliminated from the playoffs, the future appears mortgaged for nothing. But if Burns turns into the elite player, it could still work out.
The Sharks are banking on that, offering him a five-year, $28.8 million extension through 2017. It is likely his price would have gone down if they had waited to see how he played in California. That being said, they know Burns can be a core player on their blue line for the next five seasons.
Here is a look at the good, bad and ugly truth of Burns' first season in teal...
Brent Burns was the best player on the San Jose Sharks blue line in the playoffs.
He scored a big power-play goal and assisted on one of the other seven his team scored in the series. His 13 hits were second on the team, and he was tied for fifth in blocks (five) and takeaways (three).
During the regular season, he led the blue line in goals (11), game-winners (two, tied with Dan Boyle) and takeaways (25). But more than that, he was top-three on the unit in literally every other stat: assists (26), points (37), plus-minus (plus-eight), PIM (34), ice time (22:32), hits (68) and blocks (117).
That left his defensive quotient at 57.8 and his offensive quotient at 42.8 (formulae for those values available at the provided link). While that left him only fourth defensively, he was second offensively and overall.
In other words, he was the two-way force the team needed him to be in the regular season and playoffs.
Brent Burns took quite awhile to adjust to his new team and system. He was so often out of position that he was getting beaten despite being paired with the team's most responsible (and best through the first two-plus months) defender, Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
After being at best an average top-four defenceman for the first half of the season, living up to expectations was all-but-impossible. He saw a drop-off of six goals and nine points from the previous season on a much more offensively-challenged Minnesota Wild squad.
He also led the San Jose Sharks blue line in giveaways with 75, resulting in more lost possessions than any other Shark despite his prolific takeaway numbers. And while 68 hits were second on the blue line, they were a disappointing eighth on the team and just 10 more than the unit's smallest player, Dan Boyle, and just three more than Colin White had in fewer than half the minutes.
The Ugly Truth
The bottom line is, Brent Burns was supposed to be a difference-maker for the San Jose Sharks, and the team went south in the standings with this trade being the primary change. Some of that has to fall on his shoulders.
Had the Sharks not traded for him, their future would be in better shape. Had they not extended his contract, they likely could have signed him for less or a better defenceman for little more.
But once his transition was completed, he had 24 points in 36 games from Jan. 7 through March 24. During the last 26 games of that stretch, he had 14 points while the Sharks scored only 61 and went 9-13-4.
By contrast, San Jose went 5-2 in the final seven in which he had just one assist, so more was not needed out of him to make the playoffs.
He also was considerably less aggressive (drop from 98 penalty minutes in 2010-11 to 34 last season), probably because the Sharks penalty kill was so bad that he could not risk a trip to the box. While he bears some responsibility for that PK failure, it still qualifies as a mitigating factor to at least his lower hit totals.
In the end, the Sharks still have a young player who has already shown he is capable of being a No. 1 defenceman locked up for five years. As such, he may fetch good enough return to make trading him worthwhile, but there is no reason to make it a goal to move him.