After starting the year on fire — 14 points in his first 13 games — Brent Burns has cooled off lately, having failed to score a single goal (and notching just one assist) in his last eight games.
On Monday, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan tried to figure out why.
“His commitment level to working and getting through it is never questioned,” McLellan explained, as per the San Jose Mercury News. “But are you under control enough to be effective?”
Burns is a big, physical presence that has outstanding skating ability — but it does occasionally get him into trouble. Part of moving him from defense to forward was the inherent risk in his game; Burns enjoys playing wild and out of control at times, traits that are less damaging for a forward than they are a blueliner.
“I think as a forward he plays more with reckless abandon, more free,” McLellan said earlier this month, as per CP. “As a D-man there’s more structure in his game, and from how I know Burnsie he’s better off with the reckless abandon than the structure.”
Playing out of control isn’t the only issue, though.
Burns’ transformation into an elite, top-six forward — he, along with captain Joe Thornton and rookie Tomas Hertl have been dynamic when playing together this year — has come with expectations. The Sharks expect Burns to put points on the board.
“He has to find a way to produce,” McLellan explained. “We have to help him. We have to look at where he’s getting his shots from — Is he getting second opportunities? Is he in the play or out of the play? And we’ll continue to do that.”