Tuesday night in Nashville, Alex Burrows will play his 500th National Hockey League game. It’s a remarkable achievement for a guy many felt would never get the chance to play that first one. His story of perseverance is well-documented and doesn’t need to be retraced in this space. Just know that seven seasons ago, Burrows was toiling for the Columbia Inferno of the ECHL and now he skates on one of the top lines in hockey. Nothing in his hockey life has come easily and it’s interesting to look back now at the way his career with the Canucks has unfolded.
In his first 250 NHL games, Burrows scored 31 goals and added 41 assists for 72 points. Primarily a grinder after making his big-league debut January 2, 2006 in St. Louis, Burrows gave every appearance of a plucky minor-leaguer yearning for his shot to prove himself at the next level. He banged, he crashed, he fought and he drove opponents nuts. But through it all, he also proved he could play. He scored his first NHL goal just five games into his career on January 10, 2006 against Toronto, and netted his first NHL hat trick in just his 35th game – scoring three times in a 7-4 win over the LA Kings on March 27, 2006. Just to give you a sense of how far Burrows and the organization have come since then, Mika Noronen, Keith Carney, Eric Weinrich, Sean Brown, Richard Park and Anson Carter were all in the Canucks line-up that night. Hell, Luc Robitaille was still playing for the Kings and they had guys in their line-up that night named Konstantin Pushkaryov and Jeff Giuliano. Times have changed.
Burrows is now a fixture on the wing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. That, more than anything, is why in his past 249 NHL games, Burrows has registered 102 goals and 84 assists. Add it up, it’s 186 primarily even-strength points. It’s also a terrific jump (258%) from the 72 points he registered in those first 250 games, when no one really knew what to expect from the guy who wasn’t drafted and had to work for everything he’s earned.
Without question, Burrows is part of the Canucks core. And with another season beyond this one left on a deal that pays him $2 million, he is undoubtedly on the list of the biggest bargains in hockey. Tuesday night in Nashville, Alex Burrows has earned the right to take a moment to look back on just how far he’s come in a relatively short period of time – from riding busses in the ECHL, to slaying dragons and scoring overtime winners in the Stanley Cup Finals. There may have been some times when Alex Burrows wondered if he would ever play in the NHL, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s made a bigger impact as a big time NHL’er than he could ever have imagined.