The Vancouver Canucks’ refusal to play Kyle Burroughs is just weird
Photo credit:© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang11 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net this season. They currently rank third last in the NHL as they allow 3.83 goals per game. A large part of the blame for that issue can be placed on the ill-constructed defence corps, a mishmash group of overpaid veterans and unproven projects.
Because there are so few consistent players, head coach Bruce Boudreau has plenty of choices when it comes to how he builds his three defence pairings every night. This has led to plenty of experimentation and different combinations, yet not much has seemed to work. Despite all these struggles, Boudreau has consistently skipped over adding Kyle Burroughs to the lineup.
Burroughs has only played in eight of the 14 games so far this season and with the way that the lines looked at practice today, it seems likely he’ll miss another game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canucks have tested a lot of defencemen over the past few years and Burroughs has been one of the better discoveries. The local product, who was born in and played his minor hockey in the lower mainland, has shown both a toughness streak and the ability to succeed at the NHL level.
Burroughs’ struggles to get into the lineup
After the addition of Ethan Bear, the Canucks created a crowded bottom four. Of course, this is not due to great depth at the position, but instead the absence of players that stand out positively. Riley Stillman, Jack Rathbone, and Burroughs are competing for one spot on the bottom pairing, even with Travis Dermott and Tucker Poolman missing due to injury.
Boudreau has been quick to give Stillman plenty of run in that position, but that’s a decision that is clearly not working out. The Canucks have allowed nine goals at 5-on-5 with Stillman on the ice and only scored three, a stat that represents the horrible feeling that often accompanies a Stillman shift.
Despite those struggles, there’s been a reluctance to use Burroughs in that spot. What makes this even weirder is that Burroughs has played both sides of the blueline in the past, making him versatile enough to play with virtually anyone on the Canucks’ roster. Even with that ability, it’s been almost two weeks since he’s seen NHL game action.
Burroughs’ performance with the Canucks
Last season, Burroughs made the most of his opportunity and managed to seize his first full-time NHL role with his hometown Canucks. While not flashy, he makes a lot of solid plays and has shown the willingness to get involved physically. By all accounts, he’s well-liked off the ice and is often on the receiving end of compliments like the one from Boudreau below.
On the ice, Burroughs has also found a way to be effective and help the Canucks. He does a good job at slowing the play down and making sure that the Canucks aren’t faced with an onslaught of an attack.
Of Canucks defenders with at least 100 minutes of 5-on-5 play, he ranks first in shots allowed per sixty minutes and second in goals against per sixty minutes. This type of low-event play is exactly what the Canucks need at the moment. While he hasn’t been perfect — the Canucks still struggle to score with Burroughs on the ice — he’s been strong enough that he deserves another chance.
5-on-5 stats for these three Canucks defenders. Columns represent shots against per sixty minutes, expected goals against per sixty minutes, goals against per sixty minutes, and goals for %.
Burroughs to the rescue
The decision to play Kyle Burroughs instead of Riley Stillman or Jack Rathbone isn’t going to be enough to make a massive difference in the Canucks’ defensive woes. No matter who gets that spot, the Canucks are still going to have to outscore their defensive issues.
However, Burroughs has shown that he’s likely the safest option of the three and the best bet to keep things together. While he may lack the offensive spark of Rathbone, Burroughs has shown (in a small sample size) that he will make fewer mistakes. This would seemingly be very attractive to Boudreau yet he still continues to overlook the 27-year-old.
As time goes on, Rathbone and Stillman’s continued defensive mistakes may force Boudreau to let Burroughs into the lineup. When that happens, we will finally get another extended look at a player that is more than deserving of one.
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