Dan's View from Center Ice - 8/16/2013

Friday, 08.16.2013 / 9:09 AM PT
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / The Daily Chomp
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The Daily Chomp
Dan\'s View from Center Ice - 8\/16\/2013

Who is the pivotal player on the San Jose Sharks roster for the 2013-14 season? Is it Logan Couture? Is it Joe Thornton? Is it Antti Niemi? Is it Raffi Torres?

How about a vote for the guy who plays both forward and defense, who is among the younger crop of star level players who are expected to perform, and who may be the most versatile guy on the roster? Yes, I’m talking about the guy who wears #88, Brent Burns.

With the Sharks defense looking positively fully stocked, it’s only natural to assume that the best use of Burns ice time will be up front, where he proved to be devastating to the opposition at times last year. His ice time was better managed, he still played the point on one of the Sharks power play units, and he wound up scoring 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 30 games. If you play that out over an 82 game schedule, that translates into a 25 goal, 30 assist, 55 point season under normal circumstances.

In the playoffs, Burnzie was a huge factor in parts of the Vancouver sweep. I’m thinking of his 5 shots, 2 hits, and 2 assists, including an assist on the overtime winner, in Game 2 at Rogers Arena. I’m also thinking about his 6 hits, his even strength goal, and his heavy presence in Game 4 vs. Los Angeles, which turned out to be a 2-1 Sharks win.

There are a few advantages to using Burns up front, as we have seen. His sheer size and strength is overpowering to the other side when he’s skating in straight lines in north-south fashion. He can make plays quickly and instinctively, and is relying on a unique ability to take risks in a positive way for his club. He is aware enough of the responsibilities of playing lots of defense to get back quickly to help his teammates. He is also an offensive force without being a defensive liability when he plays the point on the power play.

Much of this change was made possible by the Sharks scouting staff, because their diligent work brought talented youngsters like Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Matt Irwin, Justin Braun, Jason Demers, and Matt Tennyson to the fold. While Vlasic has ascended to a top level player, it’s also very gratifying to see that the others are beginning to fulfill the promise that the staff saw in them when they were playing in junior or college hockey.

That allows Burns to focus on right wing, and playing the point on the power play. He won’t play as many minutes up front as he will on defense – witness his average of about 18:17 of ice time during the Western Conference Semi-Final series against Los Angeles – but note that his contributions were more energetically and efficiently maximized during those very minutes. That fact makes San Jose a greater threat.

The versatility of Burnzie moving back to playing defense also helps, including when he plays the point on the power play and in the instance of any injuries. His tremendous skating ability allows for a smooth transition.

Mentally, Brent’s game is maturing as well. There’s always a bit of unpredictability with his game, but there is more method to the madness as the years and experience add on. In so doing, he makes the Sharks a more dangerous club when they hit the ice for a big game.

Off the ice, Burns is a staunch advocate of those in uniform. He understands the commitment of the armed forces, and through the Burnzie’s Battalion program, has made it possible for injured servicemen and their families to have a respite from these commitments with a night at the SAP Center and a Sharks game.

In summary, with a full recovery from his injury woes at the beginning of last season, and with a full year under his belt, Brent Burns could be that pivotal player who gets the Sharks skating to daylight in the battle for the Stanley Cup. It’s a big year for him and for the team.

All Sharks fans look forward to the journey that is starting in just a couple of months. We can’t wait to bring it to you on KFOX 98.5/102.1 and the San Jose Sharks Radio Network.

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 37 33 12 70
L. Couture 82 27 40 -6 67
J. Thornton 78 16 49 -4 65
B. Burns 82 17 43 -9 60
P. Marleau 82 19 38 -17 57
T. Wingels 75 15 21 -7 36
T. Hertl 82 13 18 -5 31
M. Nieto 72 10 17 -12 27
M. Karlsson 53 13 11 -3 24
M. Vlasic 70 9 14 12 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 31 23 7 .914 2.59
A. Stalock 8 9 2 .902 2.62
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