Sharks

Sharks' most important trades in team history: Acquiring Brent Burns

Sharks' most important trades in team history: Acquiring Brent Burns

Editor's Note: For having only existed as an NHL franchise for 27 seasons, the Sharks sure have been involved in a seemingly inordinate number of headline-stealing trades. Some of the greatest players in San Jose franchise history have been acquired via trade, and each has inevitably played a major role in the successful evolution from expansion team to perennial cup contender. This week, NBC Sports California will look back at the five most important trades in Sharks franchise history, continuing with the trade for Brent Burns.

From the moment he traded for him eight years ago, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson always envisioned Brent Burns as an elite defenseman. 

“There’s such a shortage of defensemen in this league, and guys at that level and that style of play and that size,” Wilson told the Sporting News on June 24, 2011, shortly after acquiring Burns in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on the first day of the 2011 NHL Draft. 

For a while, it looked like Burns was more likely to become an elite power forward than a transcendent blue liner. Following an up-and-down first season in San Jose, he moved to forward -- specifically, to Joe Thornton’s wing -- during lockout-shortened 2013 season.

He remained there the following year, scoring a then-career-high 22 goals in the 2013-14 campaign. In 5-on-5 situations, Burns shot and scored at what remain the highest rates of his career (11.93 shots per hour; 1.14 goals per hour). But after the Sharks parted ways with defenseman Dan Boyle, Burns moved back to the blue line and emerged as one of the NHL’s best. 

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Burns ranks first among defensemen in goals (101), tied -- with current teammate Erik Karlsson -- for first in assists (260), first in points (361), first in shots on goal (1550) and tied for second in games played (410). This past season, he became the second blue liner this century to record 65 assists in a season and the first Sharks defenseman to score 80-plus points in a single campaign. 

Burns’ emergence spurred the Sharks’ return to the NHL’s upper echelon. They’ve made the postseason each of the last four seasons, a run book-ended by appearances in the Stanley Cup Final (2015-16) and the Western Conference final (2018-19). 

The Sharks acquired Burns, at least in part, to take the torch from veteran leaders like Boyle, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Thornton is the only one still standing -- or will be, when he ultimately re-signs with the Sharks as expected -- and Burns, in many ways, is the bearded face of the team at this point. 

Without his arrival in San Jose, it’s difficult to envision the Sharks finding a second wind of contention in the Thornton era. There was no true No. 1 defensemen in the pipeline capable of eventually filling Boyle’s skates, and who knows whether Wilson could have landed another one via trade, let alone one on the precipice of their prime. 

Wilson recognized Burns’ unique combination of size and skill when the general manager first traded for the defenseman just over eight years ago, and that blend placed him firmly among the NHL’s elite blue liners and helped the Sharks keep their Stanley Cup window open. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Kane strongly calls out racism in hockey in IG post]

How much longer it stays so will partially depend on how gracefully Burns, 34, ages during his last six years under contract. Because of that, Burns’ acquisition has the potential to shape a decade-and-a-half of Sharks history. 

Only one other trade has done the same.

Most important trades in Sharks history

No. 5 -- Owen Nolan
No. 4 -- Doug Wilson
No. 3 -- Erik Karlsson

Sharks have Martin Jones to thank for keeping winning streak alive

sharkssidebarusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks have Martin Jones to thank for keeping winning streak alive

SAN JOSE -- The SAP Center crowd was on the edge of its seats during overtime play as Brent Burns went to the box for tripping and the Sharks went on the penalty kill. 

But goaltender Martin Jones was there to keep the game moving right along, making stop after stop against the Red Wings and giving San Jose the boost it needed to get to the shootout and tally its sixth straight victory.

On a night when the Sharks weren't at their best, Jones was -- as head coach Peter DeBoer aptly put it -- San Jose's "best player." And this certainly wasn't the first time this month that he came up with some big saves at a very big moment.

Without Jones playing at the level he has been over the last few contests, the Sharks might not finally be climbing out of their early-season hole.

"When he can steal games like that, it's huge for us," Kevin Labanc said. "He had an unbelievable game today and that's why he's the goalie that he is. We have a lot of faith in him and he's winning us games right now."

Jones' work on the penalty kill was just one highlight of his performance from Saturday night. He was steady as Detroit's offense picked up steam and used its speed to wedge into San Jose's zone. Jones was quick to save some of the Red Wings' best shots, most notably a Brandon Perlini attempt that he batted out of the crease with his outstretched right leg. He then topped it off by completely stymying Detroit's top scorers in the shootout.

"A big reason we got the two points was him tonight," captain Logan Couture said of Jones. "He made massive saves. You think of that penalty kill, that save in the second there which was huge, big saves in the third that he made. He's playing great. And then the shootout -- he's been unbelievable in the shootout so far."

Considering the rough start Jones had this season, one wonders if he has been doing something different recently in his preparation for games. But when asked postgame why he's been more successful lately, the netminder -- who is typically a pretty cool customer -- couldn't pinpoint where his current confidence is coming from.

"I have to play the game," Jones said. "I can't rely on making a big save early, sometimes that's just the way the game unfolds. I get confidence from practicing hard and making sure I'm focused on the details."

Granted, Jones' numbers on the season as a whole still aren't great. He's 8-7-1 through 16 starts and currently possesses an .889 save percentage. Even over the course fo San Jose's current six-game winning streak, he's sitting on an .891 save percentage. While the team in front of Jones obviously is scoring enough goals to win games and piggyback on his big saves, it still needs to give him a little more help.

"I still think we can be tighter and better defensively," Couture critiqued. "Too many grade-As in our slot and breakaways. So we'll tighten up on that."

[RELATED: What we learned as Sharks beat Red Wings in shootout]

But the Sharks aren't going to scoff at another win, especially if it comes at the hands of a big performance from their goalie.

"When you're putting together a winning streak, you're going to have to win all kinds of different ways," DeBoer said. "You're going to put some really solid games together, and then you're going to win some like this where you've got a couple of guys with big performances."

In this case, Jones' performance is what kept the winning streak alive.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 shootout win over Red Wings

sharkstakeawaysap.jpg
AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 shootout win over Red Wings

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Another night, another Sharks’ win.

San Jose certainly didn’t make things easy on itself against the Red Wings at SAP Center on Saturday night, and although the Sharks jumped out to an early lead, Detroit bounced back from two deficits and forced the contest into overtime. Kevin Labanc, though, played the hero with the lone marker in the shootout to clinch a 4-3 victory and extend Team Teal's winning streak to six games.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's exciting win:

Jones comes up big

Martin Jones deserves credit for his solid play throughout the month of November, and San Jose's goaltender had another good start against Detroit. The Red Wings picked up speed over the course of the game and outshot the Sharks, but Jones was a steady presence throughout. Taro Hirose's second-period goal that tied the game 2-2 wasn't his fault and, frankly, he didn’t get much help from the defense when Andreas Athanasiou tied it up 3-3 late in the third period either.

One of Jones' best saves of the night actually came just before that Hirose goal when he made a huge kick save on Brandon Perlini that narrowly missed dribbling into the net. Although, to be fair, his blocker saves when San Jose went on the penalty kill in overtime were equally impressive.

If Jones continues making big saves like that on a nightly basis, the Sharks' fortunes will continue to turn for the better. 

Still in search of that four-line game 

The Sharks have been an improved even-strength team since the start of the month, but against the Red Wings, the forward attack didn't look as deep as it has on other nights. Labanc and Logan Couture did their fair share of the heavy lifting on the top line, as evidenced by Labanc's first-period goal and Couture's three assists on the evening. 

But other than that, San Jose's lines didn't generate much against a Red Wings team that doesn't have much forward depth itself. With two big divisional games coming up next week against the Oilers and the Golden Knights, the Sharks need more players to start producing on a regular basis. There's no way around it.

[RELATED: Thornton discusses importance of fitness in HEADSTRONG]

On a positive note ...

Keep the big hits coming 

One of San Jose's top concerns heading into Saturday's game was being able to contain Detroit's speed. When the Wings did manage to break into the Sharks' defensive zone, San Jose did a good job of imposing its physicality and breaking up plays. Through the first two periods, the Sharks out-hit the Red Wings 10-5.

While San Jose still needs to work on taking more of the center of the ice away from the opposition, that's the kind of heavy game the Sharks must play regardless of how fast or physical the opponent is. If they can build off that performance, the wins will keep on coming.