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Brent Burns: Straight Up

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Brent Burns is exactly the sort of player the Sharks needed to get: a big fancy D-man.  Now they have him, for one year. Will he stay?  It’s a question that will be overplayed like Paula Abdul’s pop hit.  We probably won’t get an answer for some time.

Google Brent Burns and you find a slew of articles saying he is wonderful and Doug Wilson is a shining champion for acquiring him. There’s not much noise about losing him, except from Minny.  Wilson doesn’t want us worrying about that either:

“We will get to business when the time is right,” Wilson added later, “but we acquired this player with the plan for him being a long-term member of the Sharks.” -Working the Corners

Why in the world wouldn’t Brent Burns want to stay with us in our beautiful mild climate, with our nice shiny Shark Tank, on our fine strapping team that has been doing awfully well lately, cheered by a large noisy audience, for a big fat wad of money that Doug Wilson is bound to offer him?  Sharks can even wear their comfy black pajamas to work if they like.  Why in the world wouldn’t he stay with us?

Without much time to think of an answer to that, Burns said he thinks we’re great:

“They love hockey. I know when I’ve played there, you’d never think they have the fan support that they do being in California, but it’s honestly one of the best places to play in the league. It’s going to be exciting.” -Working the Corners

See what he did there?  It’s exciting, it’s the best, but you would never expect it.  Why not?  We’re a really big state, with lots and lots of people.  Even if a large segment of the region doesn’t know we have a hockey team, there are enough who do to fill the seats.  Being recognized everywhere you go gets old anyway, doesn’t it?  No?  Well, it was worth a try.

San Jose has a

fine thriving

less crippled economy than other parts of California.  It has a pleasant downtown, excellent freeway access, and sunshine, but not so much that you think you’re going to die for two or three months a year.  Obviously, no slipping on ice, hitting your head, and freezing to death on your way to the mailbox in the winter.  This is what you call a mild climate.

Some people complain about things like seasons not changing with the splashy drama of other places.  I’ll take fresh avocados over some crinkly dry leaves, followed by freezing to death, any day.  No, we don’t have many jobs to offer and housing is too expensive, but hey, you don’t need a house when you’re not freezing to death.  Just read The Grapes of Wrath.  This is the place to be, man!

Brent Burns says he’s not worried about the weather:

“My wife is from Texas, so she’s no stranger to the heat,” Burns said. “It will be good to get her out of the snow.” -SJ Sharks Official Site

What if San Jose isn’t enough like Texas?  Maybe she won’t notice, like if her thermostat got frozen all out of whack in Minnesota.  We can hope.

What about the two kids?  They are very young, they will adapt.  No one asks kids what they want anyway.  They can decide where to live when they’re paying the rent.

What about the snakes?  California has all kinds of laws about not letting them get out because when they escape they don’t die, they go raid chicken coops and eat toy dogs and things like that.  Snakes love California.

The most openly discussed actual problem with playing in San Jose is travel.  A lot of players cite this as reason to prefer the Eastern Conference. Hockey players are supposed to be tough.  What kind of hothouse flower wilts if he spends too much time in transit?  Besides, that notion was at least partially debunked by that player poll last season, which ranked 3 Western Conference teams we don’t need to name here at the very top. 

We don’t yet know if Burns will gel with the Sharks.  They seem like a congenial enough group, a little short on Libras but no one is perfect.  There’s a more international flavor to the team since the acquisition of M.H. Czechoslovakia.  Burns is familiar with the McLellan and Shaw from way back.  Could that be part of why Shaw will be handling defense instead of Woodcroft?

Probably the most important factor in the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go dance is whether or not a player likes the organization. Part of that is getting back what you put in.  It’s also a matter of security.  That’s why players like longer contracts, most of the time.  Travel between games is one thing, but moving house every year is nobody’s idea of a good time.  So how secure will a player feel signing a contract with the Sharks?  Do the Sharks sign and trade players, even unintentionally?  Well, hardly ever.  Do they give a player absolutely anything and everything he wants in a contract?  That depends how greedy the requests are.  Wilson isn’t crazy. 

While the Sharks are not in the top 5 on that NHLPA/CBC player poll, they are not in the bottom bunch either.

Is Burns the real deal for the long term?  What could possibly go wrong?  No one is a sure bet, but you can examine someone’s history to see what pitfalls might be lurking. I saw the word “inconsistent” somewhere, but that’s cool.  The Sharks know all about that label.

Has he missed a lot of games?  2005-06: played 72 games, 2006-07: 77 games, 2007-08: 82 games, 2008-09: 59 games.. wait… 2009-10: 47 games.  Uh oh.  2010-11:  80 games.  Well that’s a good sign.  Those previous seasons?  What was that I heard about injury, what was it again?  Head injury did I hear?  Something about shoulder surgery in there too but that doesn’t set off my alarms.  Really, who doesn’t have shoulder problems?  Very poor design, I say.

Everyone has bad patches.  I wish his bad patch was a bit further back, but he’s young so that seems like a lot to ask.  He’s tall, that helps in a fundamental way with protecting the head.  I wish he didn’t have two rough seasons in a row.  That smacks of coming back too soon.  I’ll try to be positive.  47 is a nice number.  80 is an even nicer one, and more current.

Is Brent Burns well-suited for San Jose and it’s hockey team?  Brian Rolston compared him to Joe Thornton, who seems to like it here:

“They’re happy-go-lucky guys,” Rolston told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2007. “You can call them ditsy almost. It’s a good way to be in this sport, because a lot of times, you put too much pressure on yourself and it’s a detriment.” -Mercury News

If that doesn’t sound like a California dude I don’t know what does.  He’s not from California, you say?  That’s another thing we like a lot here in The Golden State: imports.

Filed in: NHL Teams, San Jose Sharks, petshark, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: brent+burns, doug+wilson, northern+california, western+conference

Comments

Ducksworth's avatar

Burns definitely makes the Sharks better but if he doesnt end up re-signing then they would have given up an awful lot for a one year rental.

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 07/28/11 at 12:01 PM ET

Primis's avatar

The Sharks didn’t need a big, fancy d-man.  They need more players that fight through adversity instead of shrinking from it.  Guys that skate, check, and try harder when things aren’t all going the team’s way.  Burns doesn’t really address that.

In fact, to get him they gave up a guy in Setoguchi that seemed more built for the playoffs than many other forwards.

Posted by Primis on 07/28/11 at 12:48 PM ET

petshark's avatar

Primis, I agree that Seto was a useful player, but if you had to assess the blue line vs the forwards, I think the blue line was the thinner of the two.  So they did need someone good back there.

How to find guys who push back in the face of adversity?  That’s the million dollar question.  Most of the time it isn’t so much finding a particular guy as it is getting the mix right.  I don’t see anything to indicate that Burns is crumble when things go badly, but he wasn’t on a very strong team so this could be new territory for him.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 07/28/11 at 01:36 PM ET

soletrain's avatar

yea, sharks are chill in there top 6 forwards, they have been looking for an answer to Byfuglin since chi-town handled there *#$%@& asses…brent will be a nice fit… they just need a couple of fire starters in the locker room…joe and patty just ain’t cuttin’ in.

Posted by soletrain on 07/28/11 at 02:36 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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