Getting use to all the changes that come with a trade to a new team can be difficult as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns found out. During the 2011-12 campaign Burns went through some growing pains early on but eventually got his footing and put together a strong first season with the Sharks.
Burns didn't quite provide as much offense as the team may have hoped but his 11 goals and 37 points still placed him in the top 25 defenseman in scoring. He finished 10th among defenseman in shots with 201 and was a plus-eight.
The Sharks were missing some firepower from the blue line to help Dan Boyle out ever since former captain Rob Blake retired after the 2009-10 season. It was no secret the Sharks were looking for a replacement but those kind of commodities are hard to find.
Wilson then quickly negotiated a new contract extension that would negate the risk of losing Burns this coming offseason. It also gave Burns a sense of security and the fact that he was willing to sign a long term deal without playing a game for San Jose meant he must have felt comfortable here from the start.
Getting traded for the first time has to be a strange situation and Burns acknowledged it on numerous occasions. It was clear early on he was playing more cautious. Instead of doing what he does best and being aggressive he was a bit passive in jumping up in the play and didn't want to risk being out of position.
It would have been nice to see him put together gaudy offensive numbers like many expected but that wasn't the case. Burns had 17 goals and 46 points with what was supposedly a weaker supporting cast in Minnesota. Yet his numbers declined coming to San Jose and a team with a wider array of skilled players.
Some of Burns' drop-off in scoring can be attributed to his development in his defensive play. Over the course of the season it became evident in his play that Burns was getting more comfortable with the system and was beginning to utilize his strengths more. For an offensive defenseman Burns brought some physicality and size to a defense corps that needed a little of both.
He has to be commended for addressing what was considered his biggest weakness. Instead of being another offensive defenseman who is a liability in his own end, Burns proved that he can be useful to the Sharks in both ends of the ice and can be trusted with all situations.
Once the playoffs rolled around Burns didn't look out of place despite his limited playoff experience. He even managed a goal and an assist in the five games against the St. Louis Blues and was a plus-two.
Expect Burns to put together an even better season next year when he has a year under his belt with the new team and new lifestyle. He is just entering his prime and is suppose to be one of the most dedicated workers when it comes to conditioning so there shouldn't be any decline in his abilities.
Now that he's accustomed a little better to what's expected of him on both ends of the ice, he can let his game play out and figure out how he can best use his skill set for the team. With Boyle getting older, Burns is the next in line to take the reigns as the key offensive contributor from the back end in the future. If he continues to develop in this fashion, that can only mean good things for the San Jose Sharks moving forward.
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