SAN JOSE – So, is he a puck-moving defenseman, or the Sharks’ new full-time power forward?
Brent Burns, who transitioned from the former to the latter this season, maintains that it doesn’t really matter to him. The 28-year-old's move up front helped to kick-start a Sharks offense that was painfully dormant for seven weeks from early February through mid-March, but he just likes being on the ice.
“I always had fun just playing the game. For me, I never really have had a preference,” Burns said on Thursday. “I think I had some success up there, and had a lot of fun playing with [Joe Thornton and TJ Galiardi]. So, I did love that, and I think when your team is playing better and you’re winning, it’s always more fun.”
In 23 regular season games as a forward, Burns had nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points and a +6 rating. The offense, which was sputtering along at 2.16 goals-per game at the time of the change on March 12, increased to 2.70 per game with Burns up front.
It’s his compliance to do whatever the coaching staff deems necessary that impressed head coach Todd McLellan, though.
“I thought his willingness to accept that role for what was the betterment of the team, was remarkable,” McLellan said. “There’s not a lot of All-Star players in the league that would accept that, and give Burnzie a lot of credit for his character shining through in that moment.”
The decision on what position the Sharks have in mind for Burns next season will be made earlier than later. The 6-5, 225-pound Burns’ offseason training regimen will be altered from previous summers if the Sharks plan on using him as a forward in the fall.
“If I play forward, I’d probably want to be a little lighter, do more speed stuff, and agility,” Burns said. “When you’re a bigger guy, you try to get as light as you can. Either way, I would try to do that, but at forward, I think you really concentrate on that.”
McLellan said: “We owe it to the organization, and we also owe it to Burnzie to let him know what we’d like to do moving forward. Brent will be able to participate in that, as well. We need a little time here. We have to look at the depth of the organization, who could come in, in certain roles.”
The Sharks originally traded for Burns two years ago as the likely successor to Dan Boyle. Boyle, 36, has one year left on his contract and a limited no-trade clause. Whether Burns stays at forward or goes back to the blue line could depend on what the Sharks do with Boyle.
Doug Wilson said: “He played where we needed him, and to have that versatility is tremendous. I can’t say enough about Brent, to say, ‘put me in wherever you need that will help the team.’
“That tells a lot about him, and we’ll go through those conversations with the coaches next week, and again, we’ll do what’s best for the team.”