While the NHL free agency period is in full swing, the majority of the attention is rightly being paid to the marquee names signing big deals with new teams and shaking up the league. The Montréal Canadiens have already started to sign some of the league’s best available players and look to be well set up for next season and beyond. Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin also brought back his coaching staff, removing the interim tag from head coach Dominique Ducharme’s title and re-signing assistant coach Alex Burrows to a three-year deal.
Given what Burrows’ presence contributed to the Canadiens’ team, he was obviously going to return. His signing will allow the Canadiens to build on the successes of last season and will have one of the league’s brightest offensive minds to help them do it.
Burrows Produced Incremental Improvements in Habs’ Offense
Burrows joined the Habs’ coaching staff on Feb. 24th as part of Ducharme’s coaching staff. He took over his role from former assistant coach Kirk Muller, which meant he was placed in charge of coaching the forwards and guiding the Canadiens’ power play. From the date of his hire to the end of the regular season, the man advantage showed slight improvement, scoring at a rate of 19.8% to finish the season with 19.2% overall effectiveness. His management of the offence saw the team produce 97 goals in 38 regular-season games and another 51 goals in 22 playoff games.
Canadiens’ youngster Nick Suzuki is a particular example of the Burrows’ effect, as the forward registered 18 goals and 26 assists in 60 games from the date of the assistant coach’s hire to the last game of the Stanley Cup Final on July 7. Suzuki’s output increased slightly under Burrows, rising from 0.72 points per game (PPG) to 0.74.
The increase in the Canadiens’ offensive output mirrors the effect Burrows had on the Laval Rocket, the organization with which he got his start in coaching. He catapulted the Rocket’s man advantage from 18th in the American Hockey League in 2018-19 to 8th in 2019-20 (from “Canadiens assistant coach Alex Burrows gets three-year deal” Pat Hickey. Montréal Gazette. 04/08/2021).
New Signees Will Flourish Under Burrows
Burrows’ influence on the man advantage will provide a haven for new free agent signee Mike Hoffman, whose bread and butter is setting himself up in the high slot in prime shooting position. The Canadiens’ power play has yearned for a pure sniper of Hoffman’s calibre, and the combination of Burrows’ tactical prowess and the forward’s goal-scoring ability will have Habs’ fans salivating at the possibilities.
Recent arrivals Cédric Paquette and Mathieu Perrault should also be enthusiastic to hear the news of Burrows’ extension. Paquette and Perrault play in much the same manner as Burrows did throughout his career. The two newest Canadiens are primarily defensive-minded players, who prefer grind over glamour and know that effort begets excellence. Like the former long-time Vancouver Canuck, Paquette likes to get under opponents’ skin and play a rough-and-tumble style of hockey while also adding a fair share to team offence.
Ducharme Gives Seal of Approval to Burrows
Canadiens’ head coach Ducharme also commented on the Burrows signing in the wake of his own extension, giving praise to his assistant coach in addition to other members of his staff.
“That’s something that Berge needs to finalize with them, but I don’t see any changes with Luke and Alex. I want them to be back with us. They did a really good job, so they should be back. It’s just a matter of time for me.”Canadiens’ head coach Dominique Ducharme on his coaching staff.
In the press conference after news of Ducharme’s deal broke, the Habs’ bench boss described the culture of success that was created as a result of the run to the Stanley Cup Final last season. Ducharme said the culture change began at the top, and the cohesiveness of the coaching staff is a major part of developing that culture. The Canadiens’ signing of Burrows will go a long way toward the further establishment of a winning culture and improvement in all measures.
Covering the Montréal Canadiens and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.