Ten years ago, 27-year-old Alex Burrows had a breakout season with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring 28 goals and 51 points. His previous career best was 12 goals and 31 points.
Burrows wasn’t drafted. He never played in the QMJHL until he was 19, and then at 20 he scored 35 goals and 70 points in 64 games. He played two seasons in the ECHL, before signing an AHL deal with the Manitoba Moose. He tallied 9-17-26 his first season in the AHL and produced 12-28-30 in 33 games his second season. Burrows was on an AHL deal to start the 2005/2006 season, but the Canucks signed him to a one-year, ELC on November 8th, 2006, and he made his NHL debut on January 2nd, 2006. He played the final 43 games that season producing 7-5-12.
He signed a three-year deal (one-way contract) that summer with a cap hit of $483,333. The kid from Pincourt, Quebec, had beaten the odds and signed a three-year deal. But his Cinderella story was far from over.
In his first full season he averaged 11:26/game on the fourth line and produced 3-6-9, but he found a role. He played the most PK minutes of any Canucks forward. He also started to become an agitator and totalled 93 penalty minutes.
In 2007/2008 he chipped in 12 goals, 31 points and 193 penalty minutes. He started out on the third line, but played much of the season with Ryan Kesler, earned more icetime, and in the final 34 games he produced 17 points while he and Kesler become one of the most annoying duos to play against in the NHL.
Then in 2008/2009, Burrows, who started the season with Kesler, started to get some 5×5 time with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Burrows played 1,038 minutes at 5×5 that season, and spent 356 with Henrik and 335 with Daniel. Burrows scored 13-8-21 with the Sedins, compared to 5-11-16 in 548 minutes with Kesler. Burrows scored 24 goals at E, four SH and none on the PP. He had his breakout season of 28 goals and 51 points and late in the season he signed a four-year extension worth $2 million per year.
His next three seasons he produced 35, 26 and 28 goals and 67, 48 and 52 points. In the final year of his contract he was injured and produced 13-11-24 in 48 games. Burrows battled his way up from the ECHL to the AHL, earned an NHL contract and then produced well during the first three seasons, and on September 15th, 2012, as he headed into the final year of his four-year deal, the Canucks signed him to another four-year deal worth $4.5million.
Vancouver had made it to the Cup Finals in 2011. They were a good team and Burrows was one of their core pieces, but signing him for four more years at 31 was their mistake. In the four years making $4.5million, he produced 15 points (49 games), 33, 22 and 31 points. He gave them eight quality seasons, with four of them at a major bargain when he tallied 117 goals and 218 points.
CHIASSON A LATE DEVELOPER?
Alex Chiasson was drafted out of the USHL where he produced 50 points in 56 games and the Dallas Stars selected him 38th overall at the 2009 draft. He played three years at Boston University, then turned pro in 2012 and suited up in 57 games for the Texas Stars. He was recalled to Dallas in April of 2013 and played seven games, scoring six goals. “I was young. I thought it would be easy to score,” Chiasson said earlier this year when I asked him about his ferocious NHL debut.
He made the Stars for the 2013/2014 season and produced 13 goals and 35 points. He was traded to Ottawa on July 1st, 2014, along with Alexander Guptill, Nicholas Paul and a second round pick for Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson. He 11-15-26 his first season with the Sens and signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal in the summer of 2015. He only scored 8-6-14 that season and on June 27th, 2016, he was traded to the Calgary Flames for Patrick Sieloff. He signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with Calgary and produced 12-12-24.
The Flames didn’t re-sign him. In fact, no one did. Chiasson went to Washington on a PTO and earned a one-way contract on October 4th, 2017, for $660,000. Signing with Washington turned out to be a major blessing for Chiasson. He only played 61 games due to injury, and he produced 9-9-18, but he says it was the most educational season of his career. He watched the Capitals star players up close, mainly TJ Oshie.
“I learned a lot from TJ Oshie,” said Chiasson. “He is a guy who scores in a lot of different ways. Obviously, he is a super skilled player, but he creates offence in various ways. He helped me a lot with my game, not even by talking to me, just by watching him play in how he creates chances. Not everyone is going to score 50 like Ovie, and Connor (McDavid) is going to create his own chance because not a lot of guys have his speed and skill. A lot of guys score on the powerplay, but it is a hard league to score in five-on-five. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better you are going to be and I feel I know how to use my tools now.”
Chiasson won a Stanley Cup. On September 2nd, his day with the Cup, he returned to his High School, Seminaire Saint-Francois in Quebec City, with the Cup. “I grew up there and spent a lot of time at football camps and of course playing hockey. It was special to take it back there,” he said. Despite being a Cup champion, no team offered him an NHL contract. He had various PTO offers, and decided on Edmonton.
He had a solid but not spectacular preseason, and with the urging of assistant coach Glen Gulutzan the Oilers signed Chiasson to a one-year deal. He was a healthy scratch for the first five games, but once he got a spot in the lineup he was determined to keep it. He didn’t have a chip on his shoulder he said, that was more last year, but this season it was more about using the experienced he’s gained to become a solid offensive contributor.
“I learned a lot from the playoffs in how to play the game,” said Chiasson. “I’m trying to bring that experience into my game now. Getting the opportunity to play on the top two lines really helps. Sometimes the game might not go as well as you want, but you still get the opportunity to go back for offensive draws,” Chiasson said.
Chiasson is getting more opportunities than he ever has before, and he is making the most of it. He started on the fourth line, but he just kept scoring and the coaches kept promoting him up the lineup. Now he is skating on the Oilers top line with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and he doesn’t look out of place.
Chiasson has 15 goals and 19 points in 28 games. He is going to shatter his career-best in goals. Just like Burrows exploded at 27, Chiasson is having his coming out party at 28. Many expected him to slow down after his hot start, but that isn’t the case. In fact he’s been consistent all season.
He scored eight goals in his first 14 games this year and he’s scored seven over his next 14 games, to give him 15 goals in 28 games. His shooting percentage has come down after his hot start, which was to be expected after scoring eight goals on 19 shots, but his goal production over 14 games hasn’t really dropped. He is just shooting more, which is likely due to playing with McDavid and Draisaitl.
Chiasson has 28 shots in his last 14 games after firing 19 on net through his first 14 games. His SH% dropped from 42% to 25%, but he only went from eight goals to seven. I expect his SH% to continue to drop as he shoots more, and I don’t expect him to score 25 goals in the final 48 games (the goal/game pace he is currently on), but Chiasson is proving he knows how to score when playing with highly talented forwards.
“He has good timing,” explained McDavid. “He finds the way to hit the hole at the right time. He doesn’t take himself out of a scoring position and he knows how to go get in a position to score. A really underrated aspect of being a good scorer is knowing where to go and when to go. He has learned that and it is very impressive,” said the Oilers Captain.
Chiasson worked hard at improving his game, but as he mentioned earlier he watched the scoring habits of Oshie and has incorporated those into his game.
“If you want to score 15, 20 goals in this league, unless you’re a superstar, you’ve got to have different tools in your tool box to score. Whether it’s around the net, one-timers … those are things I’ve worked on the last two years. Maybe I wasn’t put in a position to use it before, but now … I’m feeling confident.”
PLAYING WITH MCDAVID AND DRAISAITL
McDavid and Draisaitl read off one another very well. They don’t have the same telepathic twin connection that Henrik and Daniel seemed to have on the ice, but the Oilers young duo reads off each other very well and Chiasson is learning how to find his role with them.
“They play a lot of catch, and rightfully so,” began Chiasson when explaining how it is to play with those two.
“There are times on a couple shifts where I’m just skating up and down and not doing much, but that is part of it when you play with them. But I know when they are working their plays, they know where I’m going to be before the play is there.
“It has been shown the past couple weeks…They’ll play, they’ll play, they’ll play and then I can find the quiet area, be around the net and boom. I know it is coming to me before everyone else knows.
“Obviously everyone wishes there could be two, three, four Connor McDavids on your team, but you can’t all be the same type of players on a line. You need different aspects to mesh well. I’m not the fastest guy and it is a lot of work for me sometimes to catch up to him. He has gas for 60-80 seconds and I do not, but I try to create second opportunities and be good down low.
“If those guys get a look, obviously it is a quality look, and if they get two, three, four looks in a shift that is when it becomes dangerous. The way they can play at the speed they play that is hard to defend, and I just try to add in and learn to find the openings,” said the 28 year-old.
Chiasson’s one-timer is what differentiates him from Patrick Maroon, when he rode shotgun with McDavid and Draisaitl. Maroon was excellent around the crease and created plays off the wall. Chiasson is good at creating screens and he will battle around the crease, but he’s proven he can find the soft spot in the defence, and he scores with a very quick release.
“If you watch me I practice it a lot every day. If I don’t feel I’m shooting very well from there (low slot where he scored against Philly and Vancouver) I will put in the time. I know those are bang-bang plays, quick in and out. And you have to be ready. I think playing with those two guys I have been able to find those quality shots a lot more often than I was before,” explained Chiasson.
And Chiasson explained he’s benefitted from playing with Draisaitl early in the season, before moving up along side both of the Oilers top-two scorers.
“I think it helped playing with him early on. We are starting to read off each other better. Playing him with quite a bit this year I think he has realized what kind of player I can be for him,” said Chiasson.
Chiasson has scored 15 goals, but he was raving about a Draisaitl pass from the Flyers game that he didn’t score on, but showed him he needs to just find an opening and one of his linemates will find him.
“There aren’t many players who can make a pass like that, with that much air and it lands just as I’m skating into it. There aren’t many guys who can make that play perfect like Leon did. He’s a ridiculous passer,” smiled Chiasson.
RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE
You can go through the history of the NHL and find a long list of players who got opportunities to play with two highly-skilled forwards, but couldn’t produce. It isn’t easy, and not every player can do it.
“Yes, that is fair to say. I’ve had some ups and downs and learned a lot, especially last year in Washington watching TJ Oshie and how he scored in different ways. I didn’t know that four years ago.
“I think the league is trending on the younger side, and I’ve been able to be in the league for a while now, but at the same time the player I was when I first started is definitely not the player I am today. Mentally I feel a lot more confident, also structurally how to play the game, how to manage my shifts and little things like that which might now seem like a lot for the people who watch from the outside, but for a player it makes a big difference.
“I think all those things, like you said, the experience from going through that has made me better to handle this opportunity. I’ve played on five teams, had eight or nine coaches. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen a lot of structure.
“I think all that stuff I’ve learned and grabbed from every team, every opportunity I’ve had, the experiences I’ve had on different teams, obviously last year I learned a lot just watching guys, and I feel now being 28, confident, maybe a little more poised with myself and the opportunities I’m having, that I’m better prepared to handle it. Things have been going well,” Chiasson said.
Chiasson has become the best-bang-for-your-buck UFA signing of the summer. Very few could have predicted it, even Chiasson, but he chose Edmonton for a PTO, over a few other teams, because he felt he could help them. He’s exceeded everyone’s expectations, but he is far from satisfied.
We spoke for a good ten minutes after Friday’s game. He was wearing his Oilers hoodie, pulled tight over his head as he spoke calmly, but with conviction. He believes in himself, is also aware of his limitations, and is comfortable with his NHL journey that brought him to Edmonton.
He’d like to stay.
MONTH OF GIVING…
Thanks to Jason and Scott for their great bids and to Liquor Depot and Connor McDavid for the great packages.
Day 11: Package #1: A one-year membership at Blackhawk Golf Course courtesy of Al Prokop.
- As a private club member you are usually required to buy a share, which is currently $25,000, however the Black Hawk Golf Club has generously bypassed this for our auction, and the winner will be just like any other member for a year.
- The successful bidder will receive full unrestricted golf playing privileges for the 2019 season including club storage, locker room access, use of practice range and short game area as well as clubhouse account for all purchases. The bidder will also be entitled to bring guests as per the Club’s standard guest policy.
Package #2: Courtesy of Al Prokop & Executive Chef Andrew Fung from XIX (Nineteen).
- Dinner for two each month of 2019 at the great restaurant XIX (Nineteen).
- You and a friend will play a round of golf at Blackhawk with Prokop and an Edmonton-based NHLer.
Dinner will include appetizers, entree, dessert, cocktails and wine pairing and can be used at either the Terwillegar or St.Albert locations. Last year XIX, was recognized as one of Alberta’s top new restaurants.