Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Put Burmi in, see if he learned anything

Play talented forward or consider trade

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Claude Noel's point should have sunk in by now. It's time to find out.

Alex Burmistrov needs to go back in the lineup. It's also time for Burmistrov to show he's capable of learning and maturing as a player.

Burmistrov is talented -- an asset. But not if the coach won't use him. A gifted player, no matter his perceived shortcomings, is useless in the press box.

Noel is also culpable in this little drama. Part of his job is to figure out how to coach Burmistrov. Giving up on him is unacceptable at this stage. There's no limit to the talent Burmistrov owns.

Noel has demonstrated his power to the player. Now it's time to find a way to get what he wants from him. That, or tell the GM it's just not happening and to try to swing a deal to get equal value. Then live with the consequences of moving a first-round pick still on his entry-level contract.

Either way, there must be a resolution, because Burmistrov remains an asset. One to be played or one to be leveraged.

Despite an excellent run on the penalty kill, the Jets need Burmistrov's presence on the PK and in their bottom six forwards. The fourth line has barely played, garnering poor results when it has.

Burmistrov is without question an upgrade in talent from a number of forwards the Jets used in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Is he a better team player? That's up to him and now is the time for him to decide. It's pout or play.

Noel has kept his reasons for holding Burmistrov out of the lineup to himself, but it's no leap to conclude it boils down to the talented third-year pro not playing within the coach's structure.

Noel wants his team to play a north-south style and Burmistrov wants to freelance and zig-zag.

The Jets won the first three games with Burmistrov out and as long as the team is winning it's difficult to mount a case against Noel's choices. The fact the Jets shot up to third in the conference cemented Noel's thinking.

Burmistrov is going to be a pro for a long time but he has lessons to learn. Key among them right now is learning the coach is the boss and playing within the structure he sets down is the way to stay in the lineup.

Either way it's time to find out what Alex Burmistrov is made of.

Put him in, coach. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 18, 2013 C1


Updated on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 10:08 AM CDT: adds comma to last sentence

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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