Brent Burns is having arguably one of the best seasons by a defenceman in the past 25-30 years. The 31-year-old is far and away the goal scoring leader among defenceman with 27, a total that has already equaled what he got in his terrific 2015-16 campaign. Just last season, Burns also posted 75 points, which ranked second among blue liners to Erik Karlsson.
But Burns has set himself apart in 2016-17 so much so that with 22 games left the Norris Trophy seems to be locked up already. In fact, talk around Burns has turned towards another award, which Don Cherry gave his opinion about on Coach’s Corner during Hockey Night in Canada.
“Brent Burns, he could win the scoring title,” Cherry said. “I don’t think he gets the credit he should get. Honestly, and I know I’ll get in trouble saying this, I don’t think people take him seriously because of his beard. I know that’s an awful thing to say, but I wonder what his mom thinks.
“Hands down he’s going to win the Norris Trophy,” Cherry continued. “He could win the Hart, he could win the Art Ross.”
Heading into Saturday’s games, Burns had an incredible 64 points in 60 games, which ranked third league-wide behind just Connor McDavid (69) and Sidney Crosby (66).
If Burns were to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP, it would be the first time a defenceman won it since Chris Pronger in 1999-2000 — Pronger managed 14 goals and 62 points that season. It would also mark just the second time a blue liner won the award since Bobby Orr in 1971-72, his third in a row.
When Burns hit the 25-goal mark, he became the first defenceman to do it in back-to-back seasons since Al MacInnis in 1989-90, 1990-91. He’s well on his way to hitting 30 goals, which would be just the 18th time in NHL history a blue liner does that. And his current point pace (88) is on track to be the best offensive season by a defenceman since Ray Bourque got 91 points in 1993-94. When you adjust for the era and consider Burns is scoring these unheard of totals during a lower-scoring time than when Bourque or Paul Coffey played, Burns’ achievements become all the more incredible.
With these kind of numbers, he’s in some ways familiar to Bobby Orr, who some rank as the best player to ever play the game — and certainly at least in the top three. But it’s hard to take the support for Burns that far, considering Orr won eight Norris’, two Art Ross’, and three Harts in his relatively short career.
“Of course you’re going to compare him with Bobby,” Cherry said. “Bobby won the scoring title twice, but he had 46 goals, 89 points, plus-123 plus-100 minutes in penalties. He’s not Bobby Orr.”
To even have to mention that, though, is high praise for Burns.