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

Friday, 08.16.2013 / 12:09 PM
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 x - ANA 78 49 22 7 227 216 105
2 x - NSH 77 47 22 8 220 188 102
3 STL 75 46 22 7 228 186 99
4 CHI 75 45 24 6 213 175 96
5 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
6 VAN 75 43 27 5 215 203 91
7 WPG 76 39 25 12 215 201 90
8 CGY 76 41 28 7 224 201 89
9 LAK 75 37 24 14 200 188 88
10 DAL 76 37 29 10 236 243 84
11 SJS 76 37 30 9 212 215 83
12 COL 75 35 28 12 205 209 82
13 EDM 75 22 40 13 181 254 57
14 ARI 76 23 45 8 160 252 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 76 36 31 9 67
L. Couture 76 25 37 -4 62
J. Thornton 72 14 48 -5 62
B. Burns 76 16 40 -6 56
P. Marleau 76 17 36 -17 53
T. Wingels 69 15 20 -5 35
T. Hertl 76 12 17 -2 29
M. Nieto 66 8 16 -11 24
M. Vlasic 70 9 14 12 23
J. Braun 65 1 22 6 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 7 7 2 .905 2.55
A. Niemi 29 22 7 .914 2.62
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