“He’s the best hockey player in the National Hockey League by far,” Burns said Wednesday while promoting a prostate cancer fundraiser. “I saw a game in Tampa when he played against Crosby and he just put on a show. You could see Crosby thinking ‘I’m going to be good like that one day.’ He’s big, strong, he can skate, he can score and I’d say he’s probably the best hockey player in the league.
“And him and Marty St. Louis are probably the best duo in the NHL.”
Crosby, the NHL scoring leader, is expected to garner far more votes for the Hart Trophy as most valuable player than Lecavalier, who is third in points and leads the league in goals with 52.
But Burns lives in Florida and sees Lecavalier’s Tampa Bay Lightning often in one of his jobs as a consultant for the New Jersey Devils.
Since Monday, he has also had a job as a regular on French-language radio station CKAC, which switched from all-talk to an all-sports format this week.
Now the coach who always spoke his mind will get paid for his opinions, of which he has many.
” I just want to keep my mitts involved,” said Burns, who hasn’t ruled out returning to an NHL bench one day. “But I’m not going to talk about the Montreal Canadiens.
“I’ll talk about the NHL. You guys talk enough about the Canadiens.”
Burns’s 13-year NHL career was cut short when he was struck by colon cancer during the 2003-04 playoffs, a year after leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup. He had a second bout with cancer in 2005, but now looks fit and healthy.
He’ll be back in Montreal in June for a walk to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer, an event his cousin Robin Burns, head of the I-Tech hockey equipment company, helped organize.
While visiting his hometown Burns, who was celebrating his 55th birthday, will also be inducted into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League hall of fame along with a player he coached with the Hull (now Gatineau) Olympiques in the 1980s – Luc Robitaille.
Burns, who began his coaching career with Montreal and also coached in Toronto and Boston, has won a record three Jack Adams trophies as NHL coach of the year.
Although he works for the Devils, he could shed no light on the shock firing this week of New Jersey coach Claude Julien, whose team had 47 wins and 102 when he got the sack and was replaced by general manager Lou Lamoriello.
“I don’t know anything about the situation,” he said. “But I know that Lou wouldn’t make a decision like that for nothing.
“I don’t know what it is, but there had to be something.”
It wasn’t a first in New Jersey, where Robbie Ftorek was fired before the 2000 playoffs and replaced by Larry Robinson, who took them to the Cup.
But Burns said it shouldn’t scare off any coaching candidates from New Jersey.
“If you get a chance, you should go there running,” he advised. “It’s a great organization and Lou’s a great boss.
“Not everyone understands that, but when you’re on the inside, it’s great. There’s not 60 bosses, there’s one boss.”
Burns also weighed in on the much-anticipated final game of the regular season for the Canadiens and Leafs on Saturday night in Toronto. If their current positions hold, the game will decide which of the two makes the playoffs.
He picked Montreal to win.
“I’d have to say Montreal because of their goaltending,” he said. “I was impressed by this kid (Jaroslav Halak), who came out of nowhere.
“But he’ll be on the road, and that’s important.”
And he said there is no way he’ll miss that game.
“It’s going to be an exciting game and I know I’ll be glued to the TV on Saturday night,” he said. “It’ll be loud in there. If the Leafs get the first goal, you’ll have to hang onto your seats. I coached there four years. The fans in Toronto are special.”