Lately all the Winnipeg Jets talk has been centred on a young, talented player being lost to the organization. Instead of focusing on the negative, I thought we turn it around and focus on the positive. Alexander Burmistrov will likely be returning to the NHL and that is a good thing!
Let’s take a look at why.
Does Burmi really want to come back?
All indications are that Alexander Burmistrov wishes to return to the NHL.
In a Russian interview with Alexai Shevchenko, Burmistrov mentions that his NHL story isn’t over and that he will most certainly return one day. He even goes as far as to mention that this will likely result in a severe reduction in his salary (this was prior to the Ruble crash).
The recent Russian economic struggles and falling currency only adds incentives for players in the KHL to migrate over.
Would he come back as a Jet?
The Jets own Burmistrov’s NHL rights until he turns 27. Unless management trades the young forward -which would likely be for pennies on the dollar- he will be wearing the polar night blue in his return.
Now there are some Jets fans who would wish the young Russian to never return. Part of this extends from a false sense of betrayal extending from Burmistrov’s decisions. However, Burmistrov did not break contract like Ivan Telegin or Alexander Radulov. Burmistrov was a free agent who was offered far more money to be the star for his hometown team.
In fact, his leaving may have actually helped the Jets. Burmistrov was a restricted free agent during the same summer big ticket RFAs like Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, and Zach Bogosian were looking at raises. The Jets came dangerously close to the cap for a small market team. Burmistrov was able to go to the KHL and develop his game while saving the Jets from some cap space.
Even Kevin Cheveldayoff mentioned the KHL as venue for development in his statement about Burmistrov:
“Through our conversations and correspondence with Alex and his agent, it became apparent Alex had a desire to continue his development as a young player in the KHL. He remains a very talented player within the Jets organization and we will continue to monitor his progress and development going forward.”
Would he fit with the Jets?
There have been questions whether or not Burmistrov would even fit with the current version of the Jets.
On the day of Paul Maurice signing his extension, Maurice was asked whether he’d be interested in helping woo the young forward back to North America. Maurice responded that he would without hesitation. He also thought Burmistrov played the way Maurice envisioned for the Jets.
“I have an appreciation of him as a player as an opposing coach when he first came in. Really liked him. He had a little bite to his game and a bit of skill… (He’s) a gritty guy that can that can do some offensive things for you too.”
Where would he fit?
It’s been a long while since Burmistrov played a game for the Jets. As we know through psychology, the human memory can play tricks. Luckily, numbers never forget.
Burmistrov was always a player who possessed immense skill in shot metrics. Almost every Jet had a better Corsi percentage when playing alongside the then twenty or twenty-one year old. His numbers were all quite positive, predominately in the shot repression department.
Of course, numbers on their own are difficult to evaluate without any frame of reference. How good or bad are these numbers?
To compare, here are the same numbers for the Jets over the past two seasons:
Burmistrov repressed shots against relative to usage at a better rate than any current Jet other than Adam Lowry. Burmistrov also had a better differential relative to usage than all Jets except the top five. No player had a larger impact in relative Corsi (team’s Corsi with the player on the ice minus the player on the bench) than Burmistrov.
These are extremely good scores for Burmistrov, especially given that the current Jets are a stronger team in the shot metrics department and therefore relatively inflating the more recent results.
Still, scoring was an issue commonly brought up by fans. Burmistrov scored at 0.31 points per game in the NHL as a 19, 20, and 21 year-old. His scoring in the KHL has improved to 0.61 points per game, but this isn’t quite apples to apples. NHL equivalencies can be used to level the playing field, although they make some false assumptions in regards to TOI and PP usage.
I made some adjustments expecting similar 5v5 and power play TOI deployment as Adam Lowry and came out with an expected points per game range of 0.35 to 0.45. This range would put Burmistrov’s production between Adam Lowry’s 0.28 and Michael Frolik’s 0.49 this season.
The Jets are a better team this year than previous. In part this is due to Paul Maurice and Michael Hutchinson. The other part though extends from Jets this summer adding talent as opposed to just replacing talent.
With Evander Kane potentially leaving the Jets and questions about what type of return to expect, the Jets could use some talent infusion. The prospect of adding a twenty-three year old, positive possession player, who scores at a respectable rate should be one putting smiles on Jets fans’ faces.