Columnists, Sports

Dropping the Gloves: Brent Burns is NHL’s preeminent defenseman

His face is recognizable across any sport. The beard, the missing teeth and the hair, are all unique to one man. He’s one of the greatest defensemen of all time, and he has potential to win the Art Ross Trophy this year.

Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks is a 6-foot-5 monster on the ice. It is hard to believe that anyone would want him hurling toward you on skates.

Burns was traded to the Sharks in 2011 from the Minnesota Wild. Both San Jose and Minnesota are known for their aggressive playing style. Burns plays beyond the blue line, but he’s much more than a defenseman.

He could potentially win the Art Ross Trophy this year, which goes to the player with the most points. This offensive dominance is not exactly typical for a defenseman.

Bruins legend Bobby Orr is the only defenseman to ever win the 70-year-old trophy (he won it twice). Burns and Orr met during All-Star weekend.

Legendary Bobby Orr tugs a legendary beard. #NHLAllStar

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Burns is tied for third in scoring in the NHL this season with the Bruins’ Brad Marchand, behind young Edmonton Oilers phenom Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, the two-time Stanley Cup Champion of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the season isn’t over yet.

Regardless of whether or not Burns actually receives the Art Ross Trophy, he is still having a remarkable season and is further proving that he is one of the best defensemen in the league.

Burns has already scored 27 goals this season, which is the same number he had at the end of the last regular season. Last season, Burns was one of the best players on a Sharks team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the first trip in the team’s history.

Unfortunately for San Jose, the Penguins claimed the trophy in six games. Regardless of the outcome, it was an impressive season for the Sharks. Beating the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the first round of the playoffs catapulted the team to beat the Nashville Predators in seven games and the St. Louis Blues in six.

San Jose did not end last season how it would’ve liked, but it has come a long way in its 26-year existence.

The Sharks have really revamped their style in the past five years, and Brent Burns’ joining the forces has a lot to do with it.  

Burns is in good company in San Jose next to veteran Joe Thornton and top center Joe Pavelski. While Thornton and Pavelski have been with the Sharks for more than 10 years, Burns has created a strong dynamic between the three of them.

Burns, Thornton and Pavelski are powerhouses on the ice. The three of them are a huge reason why the Sharks fan base has grown so much.

Not only is Burns an elite defenseman, but he is also one of most fun players to watch for hockey fans. He is a very deliberate player. Every move and action is a conscious decision.

Burns could also be in consideration for the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is given to the MVP each year, but the last defenseman to win was Blues’ Chris Pronger after the 1999-2000 season.

That is not to say Burns does not deserve the honor, but the likelihood of the award going to a forward is quite high. However, Burns is making a historical run for one of the best all-around seasons by a defenseman ever.

Burns is a unique player with skills that other players simply cannot match. He is a player other teams hate to face because he is so powerful on the ice. And at the young age of 31, he’s not slowing down anytime soon. His dominant play on the ice should continue to give hockey fans joy for years to come.

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