Canucks Army Player Previews: Alex Burrows

Last year was one to forget for Alex Burrows, as the pesky winger spent most of his season dueling with a series of factors that by themselves would prove nearly insurmountable obstacles. Crammed into one injury shortened season, they were just too much to overcome.

When looking for an explanation as to what went wrong for Burrows in 2013-2014, injuries almost immediately come to mind, but the all too apparent disconnect with new ex-Canucks head coach John Tortorella surely didn’t help either. These factors and a cumbersome PDO managed to drag Burrows season to the ground and keep it there for a good long while. 

Is this indicative of the direction Burrows career is heading in? Find out on the other side of the jump.

2013-2014 Performance

Burrows1

Burrows2

Burrows3

If the aforementioned reminder of just how awful Burrows last season was doesn’t send the message home, consider for a moment that Burrows nearly set a record for most shots by a forward in a season without a goal. The often illegible winger came up just two-short of Craig Adam’s record 81-shots without a goal for a forward.

Here’s Dimitri Filipovic on Burrows misfortunes last season:

But for a second, let’s just try to put the unfathomable run into perspective. Some facts:

  • Burrows averaged 29 goals/season from ’08-’12
  • With signing bonuses being taken into account, he’s making $8 million dollars this season. 
  • 661 players scored a goal in ’13-’14 before he did. Tom Sestito, himself, had 5 goals.
  • He had played nearly 650 minutes, and taken 81 shots on goal before finally scoring.
Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 6.39.34 PM

Playing on a team that struggled to muster anything in the way of offense, Burrows was still averaging an impressive 7.4 shots/60 mins last. Dimitri did a good job of pointing out in that same article that Burrows was not only generating shots at a half-decent rate, but getting glorious scoring chances as well. This one in particular comes to mind.

Pretty astonishing stuff, right? Now, as for the injury bug that hit Burrows in a big way last season… They say a picture says a thousand words, right? Take it away, TSN.

Burr Injuries

These series of unfortunate events seemed to dog-pile on Burrows as the season went on, but an often underrated factor in his decline had to be the tenuous relationship he and John Tortorella shared. Rumor has it, John Tortorella wanted Burrows bought out post-haste upon arriving in Vancouver. After failing to get his way on that front, Tortorella displayed super-human pettiness and avoided a one-on-one conversation with Burrows until, roughly, Christmas. Oh, an ode to maturity.

2014-2015 Outlook

Barring a meteor hitting his car on the way to Rogers Arena, there is literally very little in the way of things that can go worse for Burrows this season. The less vociferous and considerably more stable Willie Desjardins has already gone out of his way to have a private dinner with Burrows in Montreal. How’s that for a start?

“H’Alex” is also slated to start on the Canucks second-line, playing wingman to Nick Bonino and Zack Kassian. It’s safe to say that Burrows will take on the majority of the defensive workload with these two, but that’s never stopped Burrows from being offensively potent before.

The most encouraging aspect to Burrows last season is that his team controlled the flow of play roughly 56% of the time. Burrows was doing a lot of things well, just not necessarily being rewarded for it. Now, the beauty about possession statistics is that they can shine much needed perspective on what to expect from the player in question going forward. With Corsi% we are getting to the process, rather than the end result.

If there’s a continued commitment to the process, along with an uptick in on-ice sh% it seems entirely reasonable to expect Burrows on the plus-side of goals for%. Preferably, he’ll do so potting a few of his own.

The coaches commitment to possession and controlled zone-entries should help the entirety of this Canucks offence take a huge step forward from last season. With Burrows playing in a top-six role, it seems only reasonable to expect him to be among the chief beneficiaries.

Betting against Burrows is never a winning proposition. Don’t start this season.

  • J.D. Burke

    What astounds me about the Torts wanting Burrows to be bought out last summer was…

    A) He was a fan favourite
    B) Has a history of scoring “clutch” goals
    C) Was the most reliable goal scorer on the team 5 on 5

    What was Torts plan if Gillis agreed, play Kesler at RW with the twins all season long and not have a second line?

  • J.D. Burke

    Actually, I think betting against Burrows last season would have been a winning proposition.

    However, betting on the Oilers flubbing another season or the Leafs finding new ways to disappoint their fans is probably a safer gamble.

  • J.D. Burke

    If Torts pulled this off and convinced mgmt to buy Burrows out, that would have to have locked up Torts as the biggest disaster hire in NHL coaching history. What a goddamn moron. Those WOWY’s are damn impressive. Looking forward to a bounce back year.

  • As we’ve all heard, this summer is the “summer of analytics” in hockey. I really hope next summer becomes the “summer of evaluating last summers’ predictions”. I love the statistics stuff, the problem is that I have yet to see a causal relationship between the statistics and the on-ice results – only correlations.

    For example, compare the statistics from Bonino last year to Burrows. Bonino’s WOWY statistics seem to show that he made his linemates worse. Burrows’s WOWY on the other hand, shows that he made all his linemates better, even given his lack of production. What is not taken into account here is that the two players played under vastly different circumstances. A Ducks player not lining up alongside Bonino probably often ended up alongside either Perry or Getzlaf – they may ride the coat-tails of that player, leading to the impression that Bonino does not improve the play of his linemates. Defensemen that played with Burrows, on the other hand, would be expected to have their play drop off in his absence, because he was usually on the ice with the Sedins on the top line. The same may be said of the Sedins, because Burrows was usually switched off their line when either the Sedins were split up or when the team was in a horrible rut.

    I like that the same statistics are being presented for each prospect, as it will allow us to retrospectively see if the statistics were valuable for predicting the success of players and the team as a whole.

  • J.D. Burke

    Most of last year Burrows looked out of sync for a plethora of reasons: started demoted from day one, injuries etc. I was at the game in Raleigh when Burrows broke his jaw after being hit by a puck. He was noticeably having a good game before the injury, seemingly hitting a stride after returning from the foot injury. He left the game only to come back i the next period, again skating well. I was in fact surprised to learn after the game he had a broken jaw due to his effective play after the injury. This really was the only time last year I saw him playing his game with pace speed timing until he was reunited with the twins near the end of the season when he was finally injury free and getting up to speed. Last years injuries and utilization was brutal for the guy. I hope he gets it back this year, because it would be pivotal for this team. He is one of the few proven secondary (or primary) scoring options we had in the past as a forward not named Sedin.

  • asdf

    If Burrows were getting paid even 1M less, people would have a vastly different opinion of him. Canucks have cap space and no trade target that’s realistically going to help our second line, so I’d say we should just continue to appreciate the dragon slayer.

      • Grainne Downey

        This coming from a guy whose whole thesis here on this page is “almost is never good enough”.

        So, yeah just go ahead and forget that the ‘Hawks were the defending Stanley Cup champions on a bizarre down year. It’s just way easier to be negative.

  • Grainne Downey

    No surprise that last season Burrows played the least amount of minutes since 2009 with the Twins.

    Also not surprising, that Burrows’ best years of production was riding shotgun with The Twins.

    I would be shocked if he puts up numbers even remotely close to his career averages — numbers he etched playing with Hank and Dank.

    Not to mention, carrying the defensive weight on a line that should score about 90 points, if they stay healthy. Then again, of the three, only Burrows has played a full season. And he hasn’t done that since Andrew Raycroft was a Canuck.

    So yeah, there’s that.