Alex Burrows is not clutch. “Clutch” is not real.

No Canuck is more clutch than Alex Burrows, right? Thursday night’s shootout winner in Detroit was just another moment in a long line of big plays by Burrows. He scored the Overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals just 11 seconds in and probably scored the biggest goal in franchise history with the slapshot over the right shoulder of Corey Crawford.

There are a pile of other moments as well. Who can forget, when the Canucks were struggling in the 2009 campaign, Burrows’ short handed breakaway goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with just over a minute left to win the game and snap a 9-game losing streak, propelling the Canucks to a big run?

The problem with this argument, or any of these arguments is that “clutch” isn’t a real thing, which, we tend to forget because we see a slew (sloooo) of big moments. Allow me to again quote the book Moneyball, and a study done by statistician Dick Cramer back in the 1970s on clutch hitting in baseball:

No matter what the announcers said, and what the coaches believed, major league baseball players did not perform particularly well—or particularly badly—in critical situations. On the one hand, it made a funny kind of sense: no one who behaved differently under pressure would ever make it to the big leagues. On the other hand, it contradicted the sacred, received wisdom in baseball. The sheer counterintuitiveness of his notion delighted Cramer. “It violates everyone’s personal experience of pressure, and how they cope with it,” he said.

Perhaps no game is as mentally taxing as baseball. While every plate appearance is not only a test of athleticism and strength, it’s also a chess match. You have a lot of time to think in the batter’s box and not too much time to react. Why would hockey, a game that’s all reflex and repetition, be any different? What makes a player perform better in certain situations?

I’ve been on the “clutch isn’t real” train for quite a while now, and Harrison Mooney of Pass it to Bulis certainly knows this. This is a tweet after the game last night (remember, Daniel Sedin tied that game up with 16 seconds left, and has a higher QualCLUTCH rating this season) when Burrows won the game in the shootout:

I don’t even need a calculator, just Google.

After Burrows scored the goal against Carolina in 2009. We’ve been given some big moments to remember by Burrows that are fresh in our minds. His struggles in the 2010 playoffs elude us:

Alex Burrows has become Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault’s latest whipping boy as the Canucks prepare to host the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth game of their Stanley Cup playoff series.”(Burrows) can play better than what he has right now,” Vigneault told reporters Thursday.

Burrows welcomed the pressure. He plans to bring more intensity to his game by working harder and getting more shots on net. “Myself, I know I can play better,” he said.

Everbody forgets Burrows’ struggles in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs, when he was thrust into a secondary role both years due to limited production (Steve Bernier outscored him one year).

So Burrows is pushed into situations where he has a chance to shine, and he capitalizes on occasion, and that’s what we remember. When he doesn’t capitalize on these opportunities, well, Vigneault goes to somebody else. It’s just like the regular season, where every now and then he’s taken off the first line in favour of Byron Bitz. But the reason Vigneault puts Burrows in these situations to start with is not because he’s clutch.

It’s just because Alex Burrows is good.

  • So what you’re saying, if I understand you correctly, is that Alex Burrows is clutch?

    I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re saying. Says right there in the title. “Alex Burrows is clutch, clutch is real.” There is this word “not” in there too, but I don’t understand this word.

    Thanks for the confirmation Cam! ; )

  • Cam;

    You have gone too far to the other end.

    Just because we can’t quantify it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    It is correct to say that ‘we don’t know if clutch exists in hockey’ because we don’t have anywhere near the correct data from observations)

    (to start we would need ‘detailed’ scoring chances (rated as too quality) then rates in close games -clutch situations etc etc.

    What can be said is that Burrows is a high event player.(creates turnovers wins loose puck battles etc )

    For example : Boucher scouting (

    has been creating innovative excellent advanced statistics for the Habs. One of which is a players ability to win loose pucks and create offensive turnovers.He has shown that there is a correlation between these turnover rates and
    an increase in scoring.(I have done some preliminary work on this with the Caunucks its early but so far Burrows is at the top)

    So i feel its possible that Burrows and other players may be able to get themselves in position to ‘be clutch’ or create opportunities to ‘win’ games more often then other players

    I agree that in the end the data will most like show that finishing ability or shooting % is not a repeatable skill

  • If Burrows came to you when he was eighteen and undrafted, and asked you “Hey dere, Cam. What are my chances of making it into de LNH, and playing 500 games, and playing on de top line in de ligue and winning da turd systematiquement?” what would you tell him?