Let me preface this article by acknowledging a few things. First being that nobody is truly right or wrong when it comes to picking Team Canada. Of all the players who made the team and of all those that were in consideration, you are splitting hairs to say Claude Giroux should have made the team instead of Jeff Carter. I mean are you a prime rib fan or do you prefer filet mignon? People have different tastes, that’s life. To say certain players would have allowed Canada to win gold over others who played and brought home silver (hypothetically speaking) is completely absurd.
And finally, yes, for those who don’t already know, I am a Sharks fan, who is totally and 100% bias when it comes to one Brent Burns.
All that being said, the star studded Canadian team could benefit from the completely unique, unpredictable, puck control style that Burns has brought to the Sharks since reverting back to a forward late last season.
Obviously Team Canada wanted to go with speed on the larger European ice for these 2014 Sochi games. With guys like Patrick Marleau, Jeff Carter, Matt Duchene, and Martin St. Louis, Canada has plenty of skating dynamos. That said, Burns, while not in the elite NHL speed group, is a tremendous skater in his own right.
And what sets him apart from other strong NHL skaters is his 6’5″ 230 pound frame. Call me a sucker for big bodies that can shield the puck, but as anyone who has watched the Sharks on a regular basis knows, Burns consistently wreaks havoc in the offensive corners. Maybe size isn’t going to be as important given the European ice, but Canada isn’t exactly big up front.
When Burns steps on the ice for the Sharks, the word mayhem comes to mind. To borrow a phrase from MLB, the burly San Jose winger is “effectively wild”. Now when you look at Team Canada’s roster, it could use more size and wildness.
The biggest forwards on the Canadian roster are Marleau, Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Rick Nash, but none of them are particularly known for physical board play.
Burns’ skating ability would probably be in the middle of the pack of those aforementioned Canadian big boys, but he is bigger, stronger, and crazier than all of them. I know some of you will call my psycho for wishing to see Burns on this team, but I think Canada could benefit from some craziness.
Remember, Burns is no slouch when it comes to producing offensively. Burns had more even strength points per time on ice as a forward last season than any other forward not named Sidney Crosby (kudos to the Sharks blog fearthefin.com for that bit of information).
His 30 points in 46 games so far this season is comparable to Nash’s 27 points in 42 games and not far off from Carter’s 37 points in 49 games. Of course Burns is aided by playing with the best passer in the world in Joe Thornton.
However, playing with Thornton doesn’t hurt Burns’ case in the way it doesn’t hurt Kris Kunitz’s case to play with Sidney Crosby. It wouldn’t make sense for Burns to play for Canada without Thornton anyway.
For anyone to say Burns is a significantly less talented player than the majority of Team Canada’s roster hasn’t watched “Burnzie” on a consistent basis since the switch to forward. In 69 regular season games for the Sharks as a right wing, Burns has amassed 50 points, 44 of which have come at even strength.
Skill wise, the quick skating Burns has one of the most unique shooting releases in the world (quick trigger and tremendous power), has some slick dangling ability, and is an underrated passer/playmaker. He has all of these skills to go along with having a bigger body and longer reach than any other top-six caliber forward in the NHL.
Am I surprised Burns didn’t make the Canadian roster? No, but by extension of my surprise that Thornton didn’t make it, I am surprised that Burns didn’t get the nod. He has the scoring ability that is comparable with many of the forwards who made the Canadian team but that element of crazy distinguishes him in my eyes.
Of course Canada can and probably will win the Gold medal without Burns’ wild ways, but personally, I think they could benefit from some more size, tenacity, and general wackiness to their lineup.