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Brent Burns Jersey

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Brent Burns needs more from the San Jose Sharks if he is to truly cement his legacy.
There is no doubt that, when all is said and done, Brent Burns will go down as one of the best offensive defensemen in the modern era of the National Hockey League.

Agree or not, the stats tell the story and back that fact up with Burns currently leading all active NHL defensemen with 694 career points, with Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Duncan Keith second with 610 points and Burns’ Sharks teammate Erik Karlsson third with 603.

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Burns’ 694 points (210 G, 484 A) in 1,113 career regular season games has him looking up at the top 10 all-time NHL defensemen when it comes to career points, with Hall of Famer Chris Chelios sitting in 10th spot with 948 career points.

That list features the pantheon of all-time great NHL defensemen, with the legendary Ray Bourque, without doubt one of the best to ever do it, sitting pretty atop the list with 1,579 career points.

Now, it is almost impossible at this point that Burns will probably ever threaten Bourque’s record, and Burns is also unlikely to surpass the legendary former New York Rangers blueliner Brian Leetch, who is No. 8 with 1,028 career points.

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However, and I drew inspiration for this story after reading this breakdown piece by The Hockey News on the all-time and active leaders in points by defensemen, Burns can still cement his legacy as one of the best offensive blueliners in his own right.

He can also really add to his case as a true San Jose Sharks icon with a strong finish to his career, but the bearded legend needs more from his team in order to achieve both.

Although you can make a case that Burns is half-man, half-bear given his appearance and his lifestyle, he is 35-years-old and, unless you are Tom Brady, father time defeats all eventually and the veteran may be running out of time to put a pretty bow on his career.

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Brent Burns, D (NHL.com rank: 64) — After scoring an NHL career-high 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games in 2018-19 to lead all defensemen, his production dipped last season (45 points in 70 games) with the San Jose Sharks missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Burns is an obvious bounce-back candidate considering his heavy shot volume (3.2 shots on goal per game last season; 3.7 per game since 2014-15) and elite pedigree at his position (three seasons with at least 75 points, most among active defensemen).

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Erik Karlsson, D (81) — Burns is the leading scorer among NHL defensemen since 2014-15 (406 points in 480 games), but Karlsson leads the position in points per game (0.87; Burns: 0.85) over that span (minimum 75 games). Karlsson, a perennial fantasy standout with the Ottawa Senators earlier in his career, has dealt with injuries in each of his two seasons with the Sharks. If Karlsson benefits from the extended rest (San Jose hasn’t played a game since Mar. 11) and remains with Burns on the first power-play unit, each defenseman can easily finish with at least 60 points and among the top five fantasy players at the position.

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Evander Kane, LW (95) — The left wing led the Sharks in goals last season (26 in 64 games) and is one of the best fantasy players at his position for multicategory coverage. Kane always has a high shot volume; his 216 SOG last season were second on the Sharks behind Burns (225) and he has 3.6 SOG per game in his NHL career. Kane had his best power-play point totals in each of the past two seasons (18 PPP last season; 11 in 2018-19) and adds hits (2.3 per game in career) and penalty minutes (122 last season).

31 in 31: San Jose Sharks
06:44 • December 8th, 2020

Tomas Hertl, C/LW (111) and Logan Couture, C (118) — The Sharks top two centers are safe fantasy picks in middle rounds of any fantasy draft. Each dealt with injury last season but had an NHL career high in points in 2018-19 (Hertl: 74 in 77 games; Couture: 70 in 81 games). If Burns and Karlsson rebound, Hertl and Couture should see collective success with them on the first power-play unit. It’s also worth noting Hertl had by far his best goal total in 2018-19 (35; previous best was 22); Couture has three seasons of at least 31 goals (including an NHL career-high 34 in 2017-18).

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Another major obstacle is the fact that the Sharks appear to have fallen off a cliff over the past couple of seasons, going from making the Western Conference Final in 2018-19 to missing the expanded postseason this past year.

They completely regressed as a team and now have to forge a new identity after losing two iconic faces of the franchise in consecutive years in Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, with the latter signing for the Toronto Maple Leafs this past offseason.

There are also still major question marks in goal with Martin Jones a shadow of his former self, while the trade for Minnesota Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk hardly quashes or quells any of those fears.

As a result, the Sharks are somewhat an unknown quantity heading into the 2020-21 season and I haven’t seen much improvement to an offense that was ranked 27th in the entire NHL during the 2019-20 regular season, averaging 2.57 Goals For Per Game.

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And, with Erik Karlsson playing on one leg and having yet to fully reach peak Erik Karlsson with the Sharks, there’s no guarantees that San Jose will be a Playoff team next year.

If that’s the case then that could harm Burns’ legacy with the Sharks who failed to win a Stanley Cup with this core, although they came close in 2016, while the defenseman could be hindered when it comes to his personal quest to pad out his stats and emerge as the best blueliner of the modern era from a statistical point of view.

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Likely to stave off Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber due to age, the likes of Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang and John Carlson could overtake Burns in career points with another few strong productive years.

That could diminish Burns’ remarkable career and achievements, somewhat, while if he isn’t surrounded by a competitive team then he isn’t likely to get close to Chris Chelios‘ total of 948 career points, which would certainly make us look at Brian Burns in a different light when it comes to his legacy.

Now, granted, I don’t think Burns will catch Chelios at this point although, given how he plays the game and how he takes care of his body, he could certainly come close with a final few big years production wise.

After all, he still plays a key role on the power play despite the presence of Karlsson who thrives on the man advantage, while Burns has one of the best releases from the point in the NHL right now.

However, if he’s forced to tone down his offensive game in order to focus on keeping the puck out of the net in his own end due to the inabilities of his teammates, then that won’t help in the quest to establish his legacy as one of the best to do it.

Just look at the 2019-20 season when, after recording 67 points (12 G, 55 A) in 2017-18 and a career-high 83 points (16 G, 67 A) in 2018-19, Burns’ offensive game fell off a cliff this past year with just 45 points (12 G, 33 A) in 70 games.

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In other words, Brent Burns clearly struggles when he is on a bad team given that he has to do more defensively, and if the San Jose Sharks can’t right the ship soon then that might harm the overall legacy of their current all-time points leader as a defenseman, who still has a chance to pad out his stats, make some history and rubber-stamp his place in the annals of NHL history.