Who Is He Again?
Born: April 11, 1981 (happy belated 35th birthday, Alex!)
Where: Pincourt, QC
Pos: LW, Shoots: L
Height: 6 ft 1 in (185 cm), Weight: 188 lbs (85 kg)
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005
Contract status: One year left on a four year, $18 million contract signed in 2013. His 2016-17 cap hit is $4.5 million, though his actual salary is $4 million.
Number: 14 (but number one in our hearts)
What Did He Do in 2015-16?
It might just be me, but I find a strange combination of sadness and admiration in watching a warrior like Alex Burrows slow down. Sad because he's a shell of what he once was. But I admire the dignity with which he carries himself, and the effort he still puts in, shift to shift and game to game. He's not scoring like he was when he played with the Sedins, and he's not the thorn in the side of opponents he used to be in his younger days. But he's a respectable, dependable NHL forward who can still play up and down the lineup and can play against other teams' top players. He's a positive influence on the kids coming in to the Canucks organization, too.
His stats for 2015-16 were less than impressive.
Burrows stats declined in all major categories this season, as he coped with no longer riding shotgun with the Sedins and not finding much of a regular role on the team. He spent the bulk of his time this season saddled with Linden Vey and Emerson Etem. Even then, he was paired with those two less than twenty percent of the time. Burrows this year played on a real dog's breakfast assortment of lines:
(Line combinations from LeftWingLock.com)
Here's another visualization of his use this year, relative to the quality of his line mates:
While it's difficult to generalize, I think we can say Alex Burrows' primary responsibility now is as a defensively responsible bottom six forward and penalty killer. He might get occasional work as a net front presence on the power play, though everything the Canucks did on the power play last season should be reviewed and improved, since it was so terrible. I would hope they enter next season with better options. Burrows didn't really have a defined role last season, which must make it tough for any player to get into a groove.
If that is going to be Burrows' role going forward, I can see the appeal of buying him out If the team believes his cap hit could be fairly easily replaced with a cheaper, younger player and the savings used to shore up other areas of the lineup. In fact, I've argued along those lines in various gamethreads throughout the season.
But, I think I've changed my mind, and now I'm skeptical buying Burrows out would be the right move. At least I'm skeptical buying him out would, on balance, do much to help the Canucks next season.
Per GeneralFanager.com, a buyout of Burrows' contract would count $2.5 million against the Canucks cap next season and $1 million against the cap in 2017-18. Put another way, the Canucks would save $2 million against the cap next season by buying Burrows' contract out. So, to me the question becomes this -- can the Canucks put that $2 million to better use by eliminating Alex Burrows from the lineup? Of that, I'm not sure.
Given everything Alex Burrows can still do, everything he means to the Canucks organization and how much he seems to want to remain in Vancouver, I lean no. If the Canucks could lose all of Burrows' salary, that would be one thing. But it seems unlikely to me there would be a team that Burrows would agree to be traded to, and that would take on his entire contract. Possibly a bottom feeder would be attracted to the gap between the real salary Burrows is owed vs his cap hit, but who wants to see Burrows play out a year on a budget team?
Besides, Alex Burrows remains a smart player, his story is inspirational proof to any young player that they can make it in The Show. Even rebuilding teams need a certain number of vets in the mix. Otherwise, games threaten to become unwatchable, as kids take a beating learning what it takes to be a pro.
In 2015-16, Burrows was no stranger to controversy. Jordin Tootoo accused him of insensitive chirping (not that there was proof, or that Tootoo himself is a choir boy -- I didn't find his accusation believable). And Patrick O'Sullivan alleged on Twitter that Burrows chirped him about his difficult childhood with an abusive father. Burrows apologized.
People who know Burrows, though, like Marc Crawford, still speak very highly of him.
He’s still going to be an asset to somebody as a penalty killer. He’s still a smart player. He’s not as quick as he once was, and the separation speed — the quickness out of the corner — is always what’s going to set him apart. But when he has got it on those nights, then he’s going to get scoring chances. His mind is still at a high level and he plays the game with experience, and there’s definitely a place for him in the game.
Alex Burrows Theater
This year, Alex Burrows scored his first penalty shot goal:
Fought Kevin Shattenkirk:
Jumped into the St. Louis Blues bench:
Surprised his biggest local fans at a bakery:
And answered questions for King of the Rink:
The Hockey Writers blog, anticipating a Burrows buyout, compiled a list of the top ten most memorable Alex Burrows goals as a Canuck. Number one is no surprise (try not to smile during Shorthouse's radio call, I dare you):
If this was his final season as a Canuck, Alex Burrows was sure to go out in style: