In a move that should surprise no one at this point, Doug Wilson announced that Brent Burns will officially remain at forward for the 2013-14 season after being shifted there halfway through this past year.
Doug Wilson makes it official that Brent Burns is a forward next season. #SJSharks— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzCSN) July 5, 2013
In 23 games up front this season, Burns scored 20 points, 17 of which came at even-strength; particularly impressive because Burns played just 301 even-strength minutes as a forward. In fact, Burns averaged an incredible 3.39 points per 60 even-strength minutes in his time up front. Exactly one forward who played at least 300 minutes at evens this season scored at a higher clip: Sidney Crosby. It's a small sample to be sure but even including his unproductive minutes on defense, Burns' 5v5 scoring rate ranked 21st in the NHL and first on the Sharks. For a team that couldn't buy an even-strength goal last season, Burns' reckless abandon on the forecheck and surprising scoring touch on Joe Thornton's wing was a beacon of offensive hope. That line was also dominant territorially and projects to be even more so should Tomas Hertl replace the traded T.J. Galiardi as expected.
So it isn't remotely shocking this is the direction the Sharks decided to go in. I tend to agree that this was the right move; at least for this coming year, beefing up the team's forward depth was a higher priority than the blueline and I think Burns has a legitimate chance to be a unique, highly-coveted brand of power forward. But it's probably also safe to say this isn't a permanent switch. If Dan Boyle retires or bolts via free agency when his contract expires next summer, Burns would be the most natural replacement. So in that sense, perhaps this move is a gamble as far as the long-term health of the Sharks' defense is concerned but it's one well worth taking.