VANCOUVER — Alex Burmistrov gave his first interview since choosing to leave the Winnipeg Jets to play in the Kontinental Hockey League, which naturally had his legion of fans worked into a lather on Twitter.
While my own attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful, Burmistrov essentially confirmed what his Russian agent told me in an e-mail interview last month — with one notable addition about fellow forward Olli Jokinen.
Burmistrov spoke with Marya Mikhalenko of Sport-Express and the quotes were translated and sent to me by Russian journalist Igor Eronko.
Among the highlights (or low-lights, if you will) were complaining about having to play in Newfoundland for the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League during the lockout.
“Everything went wrong this season right from the start. They didn’t let me go to KHL for the time of the lockout. Then those coach trust issues,” said Burmistrov, referring to his relationship with Jets head coach Claude Noel. “He wanted to send me in AHL, to give me a lesson for whatever reason. But i can’t understand what he was expecting from me, what he wanted me to achieve.”
Although Burmistrov said the right things when speaking to reporters in Winnipeg before heading to training camp with the IceCaps, there were rumblings he wasn’t happy with the Jets’ decision to have him play in the AHL instead of in the KHL (where Burmistrov would have been playing for his hometown team and making considerably more money).
I had a good conversation with Burmistrov when I was in Corner Brook, Nfld. for IceCaps training camp and he seemed motivated to get his confidence back and play an important role with them.
But it turned out he was unable to produce big numbers and then suffered an injury that cut his stay a bit short, leaving him with two goals and 11 points in 22 AHL games.
Back to the interview with Sport-Express, Burmistrov was also upset about the fact Olli Jokinen was playing ahead of him as the second-line centre.
“I knew I could make the Top-6, felt that i could play there. But coach wanted Jokinen there, expected a lot from him and granted more and more ice time. And that probably broke me under. But that’s ok. A great experience,” said Burmistrov.
While he enjoyed playing in Winnipeg, Burmistrov wondered aloud what might have happened if the team didn’t relocate and conceivably, Craig Ramsay might have remained head coach.
“Everything went right until we came to Winnipeg, where we had a new coach,” said Burmistrov, the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. “I think if we stayed in Atlanta, I’d be fine.”
It’s natural to wonder if a different coach might have meant a different role for Burmistrov, but it seems he’s also forgotten that Burmistrov spent the majority of his time on the fourth line during his rookie NHL season with the Thrashers, so a spot among the Top-6 was never truly guaranteed.
Not surprisingly, part of Burmistrov’s decision to play in his homeland was related to his quest to be named to Team Russia for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
“Olympics are one of the reasons I’m back,” said Burmistrov. “And now i want to prove i can make the team. To prove it myself first of all, to show everyone I can play on that level.”
The subject of Burmstrov’s handling by Noel and the subsequent decision to head home to play in the KHL will continue to be debated for months/years to come, but this post was not meant to re-open the subject.
I just wanted to pass these comments along, since it was the first interview he actually gave.
I’m starting holidays on Thursday, so things are going to be quiet (for the most part) until the final week of August.
Enjoy the rest of your summer.