This is the parable of Winnipeg's own prodigal son, Alexander Burmistrov. Lost for two years to Ak Bars Kazan, the fancy stat darling returned in 2015-16 after signing a two-year contract. Unfortunately, the result wasn't nearly as triumphant as folks may have hoped for.
By season's end, he had achieved a new career-high of 81 games played, but with just 7 goals and 21 points accumulated along the way. Point production has never been Burmistrov's calling card, but 2015-16 was an underwhelming season even by his standards. As per NHL.com:
Last year featured the lowest points per 60 rate of Burmistrov's NHL career, at 1.00 P/60. His previous floor had come in 2012-13 with 1.08 P/60, while the year prior had represented a (still somewhat underwhelming) high-water mark of 1.30 P/60.
But as was previously stated, point production has never been what folks looked to Alexander Burmistrov for. Surely Burmi's underlying numbers, the reason for his favourable status among many of those more analytically-inclined, would paint a more flattering portrait? As it turns out, the answer is no, not necessarily. As per Corsica Hockey:
(For the record, a minus CA60 is good; it means the opposition had fewer opportunities.)
His Atlanta Thrashers rookie season aside, Burmistrov's history was one of a positive Corsi For player, both in terms of raw CF% and relative to teammates. There was good reason for his name to be associated with pushing play in the right direction, and optimism abounded that he might pick up where he left off. 2015-16 took this reputation and turned it on its head.
On a Winnipeg Jets squad which posted a team-wide 51.4 CF%, Burmi's 48.2 CF% left much to be desired. His individual Corsi and Shot Attempts per 60 represented career-lows, and for much of the season he looked like a shell of his former self. The 24-year-old's most common linemates in Drew Stafford and Adam Lowry both had more favourable numbers away from Burmistrov than with him (though Burmi saw greater benefit from Lowry's absence than vice versa).
Now before thinking you've stumbled across the Arctic Ice Hockey obituary section, this season review does feature at least two bright spots: alternative linemates and the penalty kill.
While Burmi's numbers when together with Lowry have the makings of a horror film (Halloween: The Curse of a 45.6 CF%), his fancy stats alongside Marko Dano and Mathieu Perreault tell a much different tale. In the 154:46 TOI Burmistrov played with Dano, the two had an impressive 54.6 CF%. Impressive becomes dominant when one swaps Dano for Perreault.
A duo on the ice for 200:15, Burmi and Perreault made sweet music together, to the tune of a 59.1 CF%. By comparison, Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic posted a 57.9 CF% when paired. To come in at 59.1 CF% is remarkable, atop many of the league's best.
The Perreault-Burmistrov-Dano line could be a great 3rd line next season.— Garret Hohl (@GarretHohl) March 17, 2016
Burmistrov was oft-used on the penalty kill, averaging 02:00 SH TOI/GP, behind only Adam Lowry and Bryan Little among Winnipeg forwards. When pitted against all 120 NHL forwards who played at least 100 shorthanded minutes, he gave a middle of the road performance in terms of Corsi Against per 60 and Shots Against per 60, coming 75th and 66th, respectively. With that said, those rankings are far and away better than how both Adam Lowry (113th and 109th) and Bryan Little (108th and 102nd) performed according to the same metrics.
Signed for one more season with a cap hit of $1.55 million, Alexander Burmistrov remains relatively inexpensive depth of the young but experienced kind. His skillset continues to be maddeningly intriguing, even after a largely forgettable season. And while the 2010 8th overall selection is a vestige from the Atlanta Thrashers days, it wasn't long ago that both Head Coach Paul Maurice and General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sounded quite happy with bringing him back into the fold.
The 2016-17 stage was already set for increased competition upfront, and that was before Winnipeg won this year's 2nd overall selection (which for simplicity's sake, shall henceforth be referred to as "Patrik Laine"). Here are all the forwards who played with Winnipeg in 2015-16 and are destined to fight come training camp:
Joel Armia, Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Copp, Patrice Cormier, Marko Dano, Chase De Leo, Nikolaj Ehlers, Scott Kosmachuk, JC Lipon, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Anthony Peluso, Mathieu Perreault, Nic Petan, Mark Scheifele, Drew Stafford, Brandon Tanev, Chris Thorburn and Blake Wheeler.
Add in Kyle Connor, Brendan Lemieux and Patrik Laine, and you have 22 names for 13 or 14 jobs. Some of the players listed have spots reserved, but most do not, and Burmistrov would likely belong to the latter category.
Burmi's play seemed to improve once returned to the pivot position, especially when centring Dano and/or Perreault. Will he earn the chance to continue those relations? Facing off against the likes of Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, Nic Petan and perhaps even Mathieu Perreault down the middle, it's a tough but not insurmountable task. As an aside, Burmistrov's positive contributions on the penalty kill are a significant detail in his favour.
Personally speaking, nothing would make this basement-dwelling blogger happier than to have a third line reminiscent of the Torrey Mitchell - Joe Pavelski - Kyle Wellwood trio, whose possession supremacy tyrannized the opposition back in 2010-11. If the latter months of last season were more than a flash in the pan, Winnipeg may have a similar combination on their hands, one featuring Burmistrov right down the middle of it. With the 2016-17 Jets forward corps potentially chock-full of inexperience, a line which can reliably relieve pressure and tilt the ice towards the opposition may prove invaluable.
What say you on Burmi's 2015-16 season? Did his play beside Marko Dano and/or Mathieu Perreault leave you encouraged heading into next season? With the glut of forward competition, does he have a place on this team? Is this the first time you've thought about Kyle Wellwood since 2013?
Be sure to leave your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!
All stats are unadjusted 5v5, unless otherwise stated. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.