Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing the seasons of each player that played at least 15 games AND finished the season with the Sharks, in order of games played. We start with the team’s resident Wookiee, Brent Burns.
As Brent Burns went, the San Jose Sharks followed this season. Although Burns set the Sharks’ franchise record for points in a season by a defenseman and he became the first blueliner to score 75 or more points in consecutive seasons since Brian Leetch, his finish to the season prevented him from reaching truly historic heights.
Burns matched his goal totals from last season (27) in the season’s first 59 games, but managed to score only two more in the last 23 games of the season. He added only 11 assists, and finished with just 13 points over that stretch.
Some of that, of course, was luck-driven, as Burns’ PDO took a nosedive once the Sharks returned from their bye week. But, it also demonstrated just how much the Sharks had relied on Burns up until that point in the season.
The Sharks went 11-11-1, playing at an 82-point pace over the season’s last 23 games as Burns struggled, after playing at about a 106-point pace (which would have been good enough to win the Pacific Division) over the season’s first 59 games when he looked like the presumptive Hart Trophy winner.
Offense continued to elude Burns in the postseason. Burns’ 28 shots on goal led the next-best Shark by 12, and only Timo Meier shot at a higher rate than Burns, but the Sharks converted on just 4% of their chances with Burns on the ice, and none of his his as the defenseman ended the postseason with just three assists.
Burns did not meet the lofty standards he set in the season’s first 59 games, and the team crashed down to earth along with him over the season’s final 23 games. His performance on the whole was enough to earn him a Lindsay Award nomination, and still managed to be the most productive of his career.
But given the way things ended for him and the Sharks, it still manages to feel like a disappointment.
2016-17 Sharks 5v5 Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey)
Brent Burns Rolling 25-game average CF%, adjusted for score, zone, and venue (via Corsica Hockey)
Player Hero Chart (via Own The Puck)
Burns’ blistering, bar-down bombs propelled the Sharks to a dominant 4-1 win over New Jersey on February 12. These goals, in particular, are evident of Burns at his best: persistent, as he was chasing after his own blocked attempt on the first goal, and able to unload a powerful shot from anywhere in the offensive zone.
What comes next?
The eight-year, $64 million contract extension Burns signed this year kicks in next season. For the first few years of that contract, Burns will likely be well worth the money as one of the three-to-five best defensemen in the league.
The back half of the deal may not age as well, given that Burns will turn 40 in the contract’s final season. A limited no-trade-clause will make the contract difficult, but not impossible, to move should the Sharks decide to rebuild.
But, given the duration of the contract, I’d imagine the Sharks think their window is open as long as Burns is patrolling the blueline.