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How Is Burns Still a Top Defenseman? | SJHN+

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When people talk about the bad contracts on the San Jose Sharks’ blueline, they gravitate toward Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

It makes sense: 31-year-old Karlsson is the most expensive player on the Sharks and the highest-paid defenseman in the league at $11.5 million dollars AAV — and he’s got six seasons left on his contract. 34-year-old Vlasic, arguably, has declined the most of San Jose’s big-ticket players — he was relegated to the bottom pairing last year — and he’s got five seasons at $7 million AAV remaining on his pact.

36-year-old Brent Burns — four years at $8 million AAV left — has escaped some criticism, despite his own decline.

From 2015-19, Burns tied with Karlsson for the highest Points Per Game Average (0.92) among all NHL defensemen. Over the last two years, he’s averaged 0.59 Points Per Game, losing almost a third of his productivity.

To be fair, that’s not all on Burns. The San Jose Sharks as a whole have declined around the 2019 Norris Trophy finalist, so it’s a definite chicken or an egg scenario.

Also, Burns has held up his end in other ways: He’s been San Jose’s most-used rearguard over the last two years, and he’s evolved — not necessarily by choice — into one of the Sharks’ two most relied-upon shutdown defensemen, at least in terms of deployment.

By the end of the season, per Natural Stat Trick, Burns and Mario Ferraro were charged with the most Defensive Zone Faceoffs Per 60 at 5-on-5 on the club — and the least Offensive Zone Faceoffs.

So while Burns deserves his share of criticism, it’s also fair for Karlsson and Vlasic to take the brunt of it.

So much as I did with Karlsson and Vlasic, I’m going to spotlight Burns with the help of SPORTLOGiQ: What are his current strengths? What are his current weaknesses?

Winning Play: 4 Key Areas Where Vlasic Has Declined | SJHN+

What Did Karlsson Do Well in 2020-21? | SJHN+

What’s Behind Erik Karlsson’s Decline? | SJHN+

Let’s start with the positive.

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