Brent Burns isn’t who he was, but he’s still an exceptional player.
This is how exceptional: From 2016-19, Burns enjoyed a 65.73 Offensive Zone Start %, second only to Torey Krug for defensemen that totaled over 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick.
What that means is when then-San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer had an OZ faceoff, a situation more conducive to scoring a goal, he chose offense for Burns, on average, about 66 out of 100 times. Burns repaid DeBoer in kind, scoring 31 5-on-5 goals, second to only Dougie Hamilton among NHL blueliners in that period of time.
These aren’t DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks though. Since 2018-19, Erik Karlsson’s inconsistent play, Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s decline, and a mostly mediocre group of young defensemen coming up the ranks have forced the 37-year-old into a late-career transformation.
In the last two years, Burns has just a 43.11 OZ Start %, second only to Vlasic’s 40.35 among San Jose Sharks rearguards. That’s in the top-quarter of NHL rearguards in terms of being defensive-leaning.
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