Two seasons ago I was watching the Minnesota Wild play the Calgary Flames when Brent Burns was dubbed by Jim Hughson as a rising defensive star who was in the same class as Dion Phaneuf and Mike Green. He was a sure thing to play on Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics and had just signed a long-term contract.
Today I ask myself what went wrong. Injuries, to start with. In the last three seasons Brent’s games played have gone like this: 82, 59, 47. Young players, especially those playing on the blueline, need playing time to develop and Burns hasn’t played enough to do that.
Secondly, Coach Lemaire screwed with his head by playing him at wing whenever Jacques felt like it. The Wild, as always, lacked a scoring punch and Lemaire felt inclined to play the gifted defenseman at wing to see if it would ignite the team. All it did was take Burns out of his natural position and forced him to play in a spot where he didn’t succeed.
And finally, most of us are coming to the realization that Burns just isn’t going to be a great player. He’s certainly got the tools, but sometimes I question his makeup. Does he have the grit to make a #1 defenseman? It looked like he did in the playoffs against Corey Perry and the Ducks a few years ago, but I haven’t seen that since.
Burns is a good player, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I don’t believe he’s going to be a great one, and unfortunately that’s not what the Wild want to hear.