Brent Burns/Joakim Ryan
While placing two Norris Trophy winners on the top line stands as the most indestructible duo on defense, it unfortunately does not quite work out ultimately with Burns and Karlsson both being right-handed shots. In order to spread the wealth of defensive expertise across all three lines, the Sharks ideally should put Brent Burns and Joakim Ryan together on the first pair.
Burns and Ryan have seen time together last year after seasoned blueliner Paul Martin missed a substantial part of the season due to an ankle injury. With Martin placed on unconditional waivers, Burns will lead the Sharks defense again with Ryan as his cooperative counterpart.
The 2017 Norris Trophy winner will guide the 25-year-old defenseman under this wing as the two work together over the preseason and throughout the regular season.
Burns’ point total dipped slightly last season, tallying 12 goals and a team-best 55 assists after putting up career-high points totals in the prior two years. Known for his wicked, wild shots from the point, Burns has put up the highest shot total by defensemen over the last three seasons. In addition, the 33-year-old veteran stands as the anchor of San Jose’s man-advantage, collecting a team-high 27 power play points during the 2017-2018 season.
Ryan, in his first season donning the teal sweater, posted 12 points in 62 games, including his first two NHL goals against the Edmonton Oilers back on February 10. A seventh-round pick by the Sharks in 2012, Ryan stood as the seventh rookie blueliner in franchise history to record two goals in a game and the first defenseman to do so since Jason Demers in 2010.
While Burns poses as the aggressive, playmaking defender, Ryan represents the stay-at-home variety, locking down on defense in Sharks territory as he led the Sharks with +13 plus/minus last year. When Burns and Ryan were on the ice, the duo spent more than half the time in offensive zone at even strength (61.5% for Burns, 55.4% for Ryan).
With exceptional hockey IQs and a balanced blend on the blue line, Burns and Ryan embody the bold beginning to San Jose’s daunting defense.