Here’s hoping Ryan Getzlaf’s ankle is fine and he’s able to be in Canada’s lineup a week from today when the Canucks take on Norway as their quest to win Olympic gold on home ice begins.
But if Getzlaf can’t go, I’ve got an off-the-radar suggestion as his replacement: Alexandre Burrows.
Now before all you haters out there start vomiting vitriol via the comments queue, hear me out.
First of all, despite the firestorm he lit with his accusations against referee Stephane Auger, Burrows is an effective player having a great season.
I admit, Burrows is known for having taken one too many dives while trying to draw penalties. And there wasn’t exactly an outpouring of emotion in his defense when the Auger saga went pear-shaped on him. But including a player with some controversy in his history would not be anything new for Hockey Canada; what would be new is including such a player while he’s at the top of his game.
Burrows is a speedster, a dangerous penalty-killer with hands. He leads the NHL in shorthanded goals and was fourth in the category last season, showing his work is no fluke this year. And his plus-27 rating leads all Canadians except non-Olympian Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz. This guy plays a responsible two-way game.
Burrows is 14th among all Canadians in points this season with 49 and only five of the players ahead of him aren’t heading to Vancouver: Tampa’s troika of Martin St-Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, Washington blueliner Mike Green and Stars setup man Brad Richards.
Burrows is also fifth among Canadians in goals with 25 in 57 contests. Two other non-Olympians, Stamkos and Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri, are ahead of Burrows in the category, but I suggest Canada is already young enough without Stamkos and that Burrows’ all-around game far outshines Cammalleri’s.
Apart from his great numbers, Burrows is a left-shooting winger. Canada is already fighting to find spots for the seven natural centers (six without Getzlaf) named to the team. Adding another in, say, Lecavalier, Stamkos, Richards, Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal, Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter – purported to be the final candidate not named – or even Ottawa’s suddenly hot Jason Spezza only adds to the logjam.
By that logic, many will clamor for St-Louis’ inclusion if Getzlaf can’t play. But, although I have a lot of respect for the diminutive Bolt’s game, I just don’t see him and the intangibles he brings giving Canada what it needs to succeed.
As for intangibles, let’s face it: Burrows is an agitator. His 82 penalty minutes this season rank in the top 30 among all Canadian NHLers. Two of those are misconducts and the rest are minors. He’s the kind of guy who gets under the opponent’s skin. He’s like a bee buzzing in your ear. Except this bee is buzzing with a purpose – and it will also sting if given half a chance. He’ll also have no problem playing limited minutes.
And let’s not forget where this tournament is being held: Vancouver. Burrows’ home rink.
He may not be the perfect candidate, but none are. If Getzlaf can’t be in Vancouver that will truly be a shame; he is a sublime playmaker with a 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame that comes with a nasty streak. But if that’s the case, Canada will need some versatile jam with talent. And Burrows is just that kind of player.
Speaking of Canadian Olympians, the March 1 edition of The Hockey News includes a feature on Sharks forwards Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, expected to be a line unto themselves in Vancouver.
Check out a brief behind-the-scenes video of our cover shoot with the three stars, photographer Mark Wilson and THN art director Jamie Hodgson courtesy Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area.
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