Alex Burrows saw what his friend and former teammate Chris Higgins went through last season and is trying to avoid a similar situation as he prepares for his 12th NHL season.
Higgins struggled, found himself in the American Hockey League after the Canucks were unable to find a trade partner, and was bought out by the club in June.
Burrows is coming off a season in which he saw his ice time dwindle to 15:10 a night – his lowest in seven seasons -- and was a career-worst minus-13. His nine goals and 22 points in 79 games were his lowest totals since injuries limited him to just 49 games during the 2013-14 season.
The 35-year-old is entering the final year of his four-year, $18 million deal, which carries a $4.5 million cap hit. Burrows says he’s had discussions with management and been reassured there’s a spot for him in the Canucks lineup.
“People that are in management, and the coaching staff, people that are in control, we all had a good discussion, good dialogue with me,” Burrows told THN. “I'm working hard in the gym to have a good season, that's how I look at it: coming in, play well in camp and earn my ice time.”
The Canucks are coming off a season in which they finished sixth in the Pacific Division and amassed just 75 points -- the franchise’s lowest point total in an 82 game season since 1998-99. Burrows admitted something was amiss in his 11th season with the club.
“I think the fit maybe? We'll see how it goes this year,” he said. “I'm looking forward to it. I think we'll bounce back as a team and be much better this year.”
Burrows got to know one of the Canucks newest acquisitions, Erik Gudbranson, when the two played together on Team Canada at the 2014 World Championships and believes the blue liner plays a similar style to a former Canucks defenseman.
“He's one of those guys who, I think, reminds me of a young Jovo (Ed Jovanovski) for people in Van that saw ‘JovoCop’ at a young age coming in and being physical, bringing some passion. Erik can do the same thing. Obviously there's going to be an adjustment for him coming to a Canadian market coming from Florida, but he's from Ottawa, he knows what it's all about, a Canadian kid, so he'll be good.”
Though he’s entering his second campaign with the Canucks, Burrows compares Brandon Sutter to an offseason acquisition since injuries limited the 27-year-old to just 20 games last season.
“I know he was a big loss last year down the middle those guys are so valuable - those two-way centres that can skate and make plays,” Burrows said. “He's entering the prime of his career so hopefully he can stay healthy. Those were freak injuries last year: broken jaw and (sports hernia) - hopefully he'll be healthy all year.
“I think when he played for Pittsburgh, when they lost out to the Rangers in five games two years ago, I think he was one of the best players for Pittsburgh back then. He showed some flashes of it last year when he played.”
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