Shark Bites: Burns close to return, Marleau crashes car, league disrespects Hertl

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A rundown of the top stories on a surprisingly eventful day in Sharks Territory.

In the midst of a four-day break between games, the longest gap between contests so far this season, the Sharks made headlines for a variety of reasons. Here's a rundown of the day's events, in case you had better things to do than constantly check Twitter.

Burns is "really close," could play Thursday

The best news of the day came from CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz, who reported that GM Doug Wilson believes defenseman-turned-Wookie-turned-power-forward could return to the Sharks lineup as soon as Thursday, when San Jose hosts the Steven Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning. Here's Wilson on Burns, who hasn't played since October 19th due to a mysterious upper-body injury:

Could he play Thursday? I think he could. I think there’s a chance... I think he’s really close, and it could be as soon as this week. But, that will be decided by him and the medical staff. We’re a better team when [Burns is] back in the lineup, and we look forward to it, but we’re not going to do anything stupid that prevents him from being here long term. He’s too important a player. We think we treat all players that way. It’s one of those unknown things. I know our players play through more than any other athletes… He’s a big strong guy, he can help us, but we are not doing anybody any favors if he’s in and out.

Needless to say, if Burns can draw back into the lineup soon, that's terrific news for the Sharks. Not only does it stabilize line combinations that have been in flux as of late, reuniting the fearsome trio of Burns, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl while also freeing up Tommy Wingels to skate with Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto. But it also returns to the team perhaps their single biggest offensive threat during five-on-five play. The impact Burns' conversion into a forward has had on the Sharks' offense, as well as their overall play, is unmistakable. Here's how the Sharks have performed by a variety of measures since the start of the shortened 2012-13 season with Burns in the lineup as a forward compared to when he's either been out of the lineup or in as a defenseman:

Record Points % 5v5 Shots For/60 5v5 Goals For/60 Fenwick Close%
With Burns as a forward 21-9-2 68.8 32.2 2.59 54.8
Without Burns as a forward 17-10-10 59.5 27.9 1.82 50.4

San Jose averages over four shots and over three-fourths of a goal more per sixty minutes of five-on-five play with Burns in the lineup as a forward as opposed to when he isn't. Most significantly, they're over four percentage points better in score-close shot differential when Burns is plying his trade up front. Last season, that would have roughly been the difference between being the Boston Bruins and being the Winnipeg Jets. Granted, it's hard to ascribe the entirety of that improvement to Burns given that the team dumped possession anchors Douglas Murray and Michal Handzus around the same time that they moved Burns up front, but there's little doubt he changes everything for the Sharks when he's able to play and San Jose's possession game has unsurprisingly lagged in his absence.

Marleau involved in serious car accident

On a much more somber note, Patrick Marleau was involved in what KRON 4 Bay Area News described as a serious car accident on W. Taylor Street in San Jose when his Mercedes SUV collided with another car:

Thankfully, Marleau appears to be all right and we obviously the hope the same can be said for the other driver involved in the collision. Jason Demers seemed to think Marleau will suffer no ill effects, although comparing him to a dude who flies everywhere and never actually operates a vehicle might not have been the best choice given the circumstances:

NHL, ESPN snub Hertl in Calder talk

Finally, after he allegedly disrespected the NHL by scoring the goal of the season less than a week into the 2013-14 campaign, Tomas Hertl appears to be on the receiving end after the league disrespected him with this pretty fucking stupid tweet:

That's right. Boston's Torey Krug, who has as many points on the season as Hertl has goals, is the clear rookie-of-the-year favorite at the quarter mark. Never mind that Krug is two years older than Hertl, had the advantage of already having played in fifteen playoff games last spring, has scored half his points on the power play, is being heavily sheltered in terms of usage and is actually 13th among rookie defensemen in average ice time. He's apparently a more deserving candidate than Hertl, who is currently tied for 4th in the entire NHL in goals.

Not to be outdone, ESPN released their quarter-mark award rankings and not only snubbed Hertl for the Calder but didn't even include him among the top three candidates for the award (stick-tap to @hailrover for the image and for bringing this to our attention):

Calder_medium

There's a legitimate argument for Jones over Hertl but ranking Danny DeKeyser and Sean Monahan over the Sharks rookie who, I repeat, only three guys in the entire NHL have scored more goals than this season is laughable. In the same article, the Worldwide Leader also gave Alexander Steen the Hart Trophy and claimed Ryan Suter plays for the Phoenix Coyotes. Good job, good effort.

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