Before Alexander Burmistrov accepted his assignment to the AHL's St. John's IceCaps, I was a huge proponent of his choice to play in the KHL instead.
Alas, the Winnipeg Jets felt it better for his development that he spend the early stages of the 2012-13 season playing with the St. John's IceCaps. Instead of recouping his lost wages by joining the KHL -- the money he was entitled to before the lockout -- he was instead coerced into a modest AHL salary where the Jets could keep a watchful eye on his progress.
Burmistrov, for his part, was good natured about the demotion. Although it was clear in his choice of words he would much rather play in his hometown of Ak Bars, Russia, he sucked it up and proverbially took one for the team.
His disappointment was evidenced in a September interview with Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press:
"[Playing in St. John's is] the team's choice. They decided they wanted to do that, so I have to do it. I will go there and play hockey. If I had the chance it would be nice to play there (Ak-Bars Kazan). I know the coaches, I played there the first time. But (playing in St. John's) is what I have to do. It was a decision we made together so that's fine."
These were assuredly not the words of a player who was enthralled by the idea of spending his time away from the NHL touring the Atlantic coast against minor league jobbers. And yet, he pressed on in pursuit of a goal True North Sports and Entertainment set out for him.
Since that time, the young Russian forward has had difficulty achieving results at the minor league level. Despite notching nine assists through his first twenty-two games, he has struggled finding the back of the next, registering only two goals on fifty-two shots. The team has struggled out of the gate to a pedestrian 11-14-0-1 record -- a pale comparison to the squad that set the league on fire for the better part of 2011.
Last week, Burmistrov was diagnosed with a dreaded lower-body injury, an affliction which has kept him out of the line-up the past four games.
But the injury did not stop him from taking to Instagram -- a popular mobile photo-sharing program -- to tell his followers where his allegiances truly lie.
The first photo depicts Burmistrov in an Ak-Bars Kazan jersey with the subtitle "Ak Bars Kazan........". The second is the official logo of the Russian club with the following blurb from Burmistrov:
@ak-bars looks like time to go home !!! Miss it so much !!!
Should the lockout drag on and devour the entire 2012-13 season, Burmistrov will likely express his desire play in his native land for the remainder of the season. At this point, it's time for him to start looking into his best interests, not those of a team trying to siphon portions of his 1.5MM annual salary.
Judging solely by his statistical output, the IceCaps won't be hard-pressed to fill his scoring role. Burmistrov, for his part, will be able to return home and quell some of the loneliness living in a foreign land can create, while bankrolling a few extra rubles on the side.
Although, I'm sure both sides would prefer Burmistrov skating on the sheet at the MTS Centre in front of a sea of roaring fans sooner rather than later.
If you want to follow Burmistrov on Instagram, he goes by the handle alexburmi.