Where's Wookiee? Sharks only sink as Brent Burns struggles


As Brent Burns has struggled this calendar year, so have the San Jose Sharks. 

Over his last 36 regular season and playoff games, Burns has scored 16 points. While 11 of those 16 points have come on the power play, only two of those points have been goals. 

The Sharks are 16-20 over that span. 

It would be too easy to point Burns as the only factor behind that record, but he’s certainly one of the biggest. He scored 70 points in the Sharks’ first 66 games last season, leading San Jose to one of the league’s best records and a seemingly strong grip on the Pacific Division’s top seed. 

The final 16 games were a different story, as the Sharks lost home ice advantage entirely thanks to a one-two punch of injury and general ineffectiveness. Burns only scored six points, and San Jose won only six of those games. 

It was one thing to see Burns struggle down the stretch last season, as he was due for some regression from his point-per-game clip to start his Norris Trophy-winning campaign. It’s been another to see those struggles continue into this season. 

Through 14 games, Burns has assisted on seven goals and failed to find the back of the net himself. Only one of those seven assists have come at even strength, and only three are primary assists.

Some of this has been due to bad luck. His 4.2 shots per game are up from last season, as are the 45.7 percent of his shot attempts resulting in a shot on net. That amount of rubber hasn’t turned into goals for Burns or his teammates, as the Sharks have only scored on a little over two percent of their shots with the defenseman on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Despite Burns’ lack of production, San Jose’s 8-6-0 this season. That’s mostly because their stingy penalty kill and dominant defense overcoming the NHL’s fifth-worst offensive output of 2.57 goals per game. 

Wednesday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning showed that can only take them so far if they’re not scoring. Sometimes, you need your offense to bail you out, and the Sharks simply haven’t been able to rely on their offense all season. 

Burns is not the only player struggling offensively, but he is easily the most critical. When Burns produced last season, the Sharks were one of the league’s best teams. When he wasn’t, they weren’t. 

If that continues, they won’t be one this season, either.

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