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|Burmistrov's run in Winnipeg is over
2 января 2017 года. Winnipeg Sun. BY KEN WIEBE.
TAMPA – It was the type of pick that can significantly alter the history of a franchise.
With the eighth overall selection back in the 2010 NHL Draft, the Atlanta Thrashers chose Russian centre Alex Burmistrov from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.
Burmistrov had plenty of skill and played the game hard, that's part of the reason then general manager Rick Dudley called his name after stepping to the podium.
It's often said that it takes five years (and sometimes longer) to see how a team actually fared at the draft table.
More than six years after the Thrashers chose Burmistrov, the tumultuous tenure of the versatile forward has come to a close.
After recording only two assists in 23 games this season and spending the past 10 contests as a healthy scratch, Burmistrov was placed on waivers on Sunday morning and he was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.
Closing the book on Burmistrov's time with the Winnipeg Jets was the logical ending for both sides.
The Jets open a three-game road trip on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
NHL teams swing and miss on players, that's a harsh reality of the inexact science related to trying to project what an 18 or 19-year-old is going to look like in two-to-five years down the road.
Whiffing on Top-10 picks is costly and the Jets probably don't need me to remind them that Minnesota Wild centre Mikael Granlund was chosen ninth overall in 2010.
The 2010 draft class featured plenty of picks that didn't pan out, but the first round picks that year also included forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaden Schwartz, Nick Bjugstad, Kevin Hayes, Charlie Coyle and Brock Nelson, not to mention defenceman Cam Fowler.
It's easy to envision any one of those guys making a bigger impact than Burmistrov did.
This isn't about revisionist history, it's simply a reminder about what can happen when things don't pan out.
Burmistrov, 25, certainly had flashes of brilliance with the Jets, but far too often, he left you wanting more.
The first two months of his time saw him play the best hockey of his career, as he got off to a great start offensively (four goals, 10 points in 12 games) while playing on the second line, often with Evander Kane and some combination of Nik Antropov or Kyle Wellwood.
But Burmistrov's play dropped off considerably and he fell out of favour with head coach Claude Noel, who demoted him to the fourth line and even made him a healthy scratch as he tried to encourage more of a north-south game (instead of the east-west style Burmistrov prefers).
During the lockout, Burmistrov wanted to be loaned to the KHL where he could make more money, while the Jets instead assigned him to the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League.
The clash with his coach was a central part of the reason Burmistrov chose to leave the Jets for the Kontinental Hockey League when he became a restricted free agent in the summer of 2013.
Burmistrov always left the door open for a return and a meeting with new head coach Paul Maurice during the IIHF world championship in 2015 helped cement a second chance with the Jets.
Bringing Burmistrov back was a low-risk move, as he inked a two-year contract which carried an average annual value of $1.55 million.
The belief was Maurice might be able to get through to Burmistrov.
Besides, the Jets were still hoping to get something out of the asset, since a draft-and-development franchise can't really afford to let a first-rounder walk when he's still a restricted free agent – at least not until all options are exhausted.
Burmistrov has been available via trade since last season, though the asking price was never met.
A slow start to the season drove the price down even further and while there had been some interest, other teams weren't willing to part with a draft pick or a prospect to give Burmistrov a test drive.
With no apparent future inside the Jets' organization and no takers via trade, placing Burmistrov on waivers was the right thing to do.
While losing Burmistrov for nothing is far from optimal, the two sides need a clean break and they've got one.
It wasn't Burmistrov's fault he was rushed to the NHL before he was really ready, but he's the only one responsible for not accepting the role he was asked to play here.
Burmistrov has the type of skill-set that could allow him to be an effective checker, once he's willing to accept he's going to be a scorer who sees considerable power-play time.
He's a strong penalty killer, a guy needs to figure out how to use the players around him better and occasionally make the simple play rather than try and make something happen in the dangerous areas around the offensive and defensive blue lines.
He's still a young player at 25 and his best hockey might be still to come, though it was apparent things weren't likely to turn around with the Jets.
If Burmistrov doesn't figure it out soon, it won't be long until he's once again playing for his hometown team in Russia and perhaps putting the NHL in his rearview mirror for good.