Alex Burrows didn’t get to train much last summer – he had to wait for his ribs to heal after fracturing them during the playoffs.
That limited workout time was likely a big part of his production falloff this season – Burrows went from 33 points in 2014-15 to 22 points this year.
(Can’t think of a stronger tribute to his two favourite linemates.)
Burrows spoke with TSN radio Monday, expanding on his decrease in production.
“My foot speed might be a little bit slower,” said Burrows. “This year was a little frustrating playing on a lot of different lines, playing on the left and right side, not developing any chemistry with anyone.”
Burrows continued, saying when he played with the twins in the past, he knew exactly where to go every single night.
“When we played (under) A.V. with the twins, it was offensive starts 75-80 percent of the time,” he said. “We were double, triple shifting, playing 18, 20, 22 minutes sometimes – obviously it helps your numbers, where this year was less minutes and different linemates.”
Makes sense, yet this year Vancouver seemed hell bent on not going back to either him or Vrbata with the Sedins despite both having instant chemistry with them in seasons past. Brandon Sutter, Jake Virtanen, Ronald Kenins, Jannik Hansen, and even Derek Dorsett got looks with the twins ahead of Burrows.
Thing is, there are a couple of reasons Burrows has a good shot at rewarding whichever team he plays for next season – including the Canucks if they bring him back – with better results.
First, this year, unlike last, Burrows will have a full off-season to train and “get a jumpstart on others” (his words) because of their playoff runs.
Second, he’ll probably have a larger, more defined role.
Here in Vancouver Radim Vrbata will likely be gone, and they’ll need goals from somewhere.
Regarding a possible buyout, Burrows said he met with Jim Benning and Trevor Linden Monday morning and they told him they’re gathering information and thinking about their decision.
One key they’ll consider – how they might make better use of the $2-million cap space they’d gain by buying out the last year of his $4.5-million AAV contract. Because his contract pays him $3-million next year, the cost of buying him out will be $1-million in each of the next two seasons.
On the other hand, they could get a solid bang-for-their-buck at $3-million.
Listening to him talk, it’s clear he’s put a lot of thought into the team’s situation.
“There’s a lot that goes into play,” Burrows said. “If they pick fourth or fifth (in the draft) and they have to pick a d-man or they pick a forward, there’s so many things – what are they going to do on July 1? What’s their plan – are they going to bring in a d-man or are they going to sign a forward, (Steven) Stamkos or who’s out there, (Mikkel) Boedker or (Loui) Eriksson?”
One thing’s for sure – it won’t be easy to find another veteran who thinks the game as well as Burrows does.
If you’re not sure about that, listen to him explain why he had so much success with the Sedins.
“I was lucky to be able to watch them for like three or four years,” said Burrows, specifically mentioning their linemates over that time – Anson Carter, Taylor Pyatt, and Markus Naslund.
“I was able to analyze their game. It’s not rocket science, really – you see them cycle in the same corner. They don’t really go to the right corner, it’s pretty much always in the left corner. Then it’s smart plays, they’re saucering passes, it’s not blazing speed or pure strength, it’s just making good reads.
“For me I was able to understand if you’re able to create more room by taking a check away and going to the net and opening the corner for them, they’re such good players. I retrieved pucks for them, tried to get in on the forecheck and then just went to the net pretty much.”
Listening to that breakdown you start to understand why Burrows would be a great mentor and teacher for younger players – better than Derek Dorsett perhaps. Since before his time in the NHL, he’s been analyzing the game, trying to figure out how he could make a career out of simple hard work and grit, and a more than decent set of hands.
Using those smarts he went from playing in the ECHL to the top line of a Stanley Cup contender in just a few years.
With the case made for his return, only one question remains – how much does he want to be in Vancouver?
“I love this city. Me and my family, we love this organization,” said Burrows.
“I would love to be back. That being said, it’s not my call, and I totally get it.”