So far this season the Sharks have had all kinds of scoring problems and it seems as if the coaching staff has tried everything to jump start the offense. Guys have jumped from the fourth line to the first line, moved in and out of the lineup as healthy scratches and there have been many call-ups from the Worcester Sharks as well. But, despite all that, San Jose is still ranked 28th in the league out of 30 teams in goals per game. Actually, if it were not for that seven-game win streak to start the season they might even be ranked lower.
Fortunately for the coaching staff they may have finally struck gold and in the form of Brent Burns.
Since his return from inury he has a total of six points in his four games as a forward. That makes him the hottest player on the team right now, and probably by a long shot although Patrick Marleau is on a four-game point streak as well. With that being said, it seems like Burns’ emergence has made lots of guys better, such as Marleau (although his streakiness could be a major contributing factor as well).
One of the key points though seems to be the continued development of defenseman Matt Irwin. He has now scored a goal in three straight games and could be part of the reason Burns is able to stay up front because his production from the blue line can put the coaching staff at ease knowing they have lots of depth at defenseman.
Let’s not forget to credit the coaching staff for making this personel move as well. While most of us were thinking that while it would be interesting for a game or two that nothing would come out of it.
The fact is, Todd McLellan has some history with Burns when both were apart of the Houston Aeros organization (Minnesota Wild AHL affiliate) in 2003 and 2004. At that point Burns was in the middle of being converted to a defenseman from forward due to Wild head coach Jacque Lemaire and his defensive mindset. Thus, McClellan was able to see some of Burn’s talent as a forward during that transition leading to his decision to try Burns as a forward once again given his natural talent at the position.
Also, last but not least, Burns’ skills as a hockey player have made it possible as well. He is playing like a true power forward and watching the games looks a lot like Thornton does when handling the puck in the offensive zone. He is hard to move off the puck and is willing to take the body, which is something the Sharks do not deal nearly enough of. He also has that long reach that is not only great defensively but also makes it that much harder to take the puck from him. Contrary to ‘Jumbo Joe’ though Burns has a great shot and is actually willing to use it.
To put it simply, he looks like he is having fun out there and that has shown in how well he is doing. The best part is he has affected the whole team and the Sharks are scoring more goals. He has injected some life into this offense and is showing the rest of this team what real drive and determination are; something that may have been lacking over this past month.
While this has not traslated directly into many more wins, the offense is looking better (although it would have been hard to continue to get worse) and hopefully that trend continues.
I for one think that as long as we alright on the blue line there is no need to put Burns back there if he continues to produce as a forward. In other words, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. It will be interesting to see what happens in the long-term whether or not Burns eventually moves back to defense or stays as a forward, but for now we should all sit back and enjoy the show.