It may have been an act of desperation that made San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan decide to move the defensemen Brent Burns to a forward position, but the results have been pure genius. In what the media has dubbed as “The Burns Experiment” has showcased a positive shakeup in the Sharks offensive strategy. Prior to the addition of the all-star defensemen as a winger to the top line alongside Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, the Sharks had hit a slump that ranked them among the worst in the NHL in scoring, an average of just 1.94 per game. Since the move forward, Burns has garnered six goals and eight assists, immediately scoring in his debut game as a forward against the Saint Louis Blues. Coincided with Burns move forward has been the Sharks notable upswing and offensive shift that has resulted in their winning six of seven home games.
Burns’ addition to the top line has provided speed, a big body, a relentless pursuit to get the puck, and a killer shot. In an interview with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, McLellan stated, “We’ll probably play him up front and on the back end a little bit – a bit of a rover. We’ll see if we can use his speed and his shot to create up front, but obviously there’s an asset to having him back there. He’ll see some power play time, as well.” McLellan adds, “We just feel that he has some offensive assets that we can tap into.” Burns line mates also feel positive about the switch; “I’d play with [Burns] all year. He’s big, strong, handles the puck. He seems like a perfect fit for me and Logan,” says Thornton to CSN Bay Area, “Yeah, I’d love to play with him all year, he’s great.”
While the offensive-minded defensemen has spent most of his nine year NHL career on the blue line, Burns has experience playing forward before, the Minnesota Wild also utilized Burns as a forward and as a defensemen. Back in 2004-2005, McLellan used Burns as a forward for the AHL’s Houston Aeros, where McLellan was the head coach and where Burns played during the NHL’s lockout. Some say the biggest development is that McLellan has found a winger to fill in the void in the Thornton and Couture line, a task that has seen the likes of many, including Tommy Wingels, but has only succeeded with one, Burns. “It’s a joy to play with those guys,” Burns explained, “I think we were in their end a lot of the game, big bodies, I think we play a hard style. I felt good.”
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