An NHL Network panel ranked San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns the second-best blueliner in the league on Sunday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed out on the top 20, and was ranked the league’s 24th-best defender.
Burns scored more points (76) than any other defenseman last season en route to the first Norris Trophy win of his career. He finished third in Norris voting the previous season, and is the only player in Sharks history to win the award or finish as a finalist (top three in voting). Erik Karlsson, the lone defenseman ranked ahead of Burns on NHL Network’s list, is the only rearguard to score more points (219) than Burns (211) over the last three seasons.
"If he's got a step on you, forget it, it's over," NHL Network analyst Ken Danyeko said. "He's too big [and] he's too strong. Silky smooth hands, in tight for a defenseman, he buries it. There's a reason he led the National Hockey League in the back-end in goals as well.”
Vlasic is one of the league’s best shutdown defenders, and has been a staple of Canada’s gold medal-winning blueline at the last two best-on-best international tournaments: at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, and at the World Cup of Hockey last fall. Although he struggled last season, much of the blame fell on his usage ($), and Vlasic was still relied upon for 22:07 per night, playing in every situation.
"Coaches love guys like Vlasic because he is steady night in and night out, can play with anyone and make them better, and certainly when he plays with a real offensive guy, you don't have to worry when they take some risks," Daneyko said. "When you have a guy like Vlasic to back you up, it's pretty safe. It's no coincidence why he gets picked to represent [Canada] nationally over some bigger names."
Both Burns and Vlasic will wear teal for the foreseeable future. Burns signed an eight-year, $64,000,000 extension in November, while Vlasic signed a eight-year, $56,000,000 extension in July.
They are not the only Sharks NHL Network named among the best at their respective positions. Goaltender Martin Jones was ranked the league’s ninth-best goalie, Joe Pavelski was named the seventh-best winger, and Joe Thornton and Logan Couture were determined to be the NHL’s 25th-and-24th-best centers, respectively, earlier this summer. The network will next unveil the league’s 50-best players, regardless of position, every Sunday from September 3 until October 1.
The full list of top 20 defensemen can be found here.
Burns and Vlasic’s rankings are....
This poll is closed
Too high for both
Too high for Burns, just right for Vlasic
Too high for Burns, too low for Vlasic
Too low for Burns, just right for Vlasic
Too low for Burns, too high for Vlasic
Too low for both
Just right for Burns, too high for Vlasic
Just right for Burns, too low for Vlasic
Just right for both