Lack of Ice Time Led to Alexander Burmistrov's Departure to KHL; Winnipeg Jets Better Off Without Him

By Casey Drottar
James Guillory – USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov ended his short stint in the NHL earlier this offseason After just three seasons in the pros, Burmistrov packed his bags and went back to his home country of Russia, joining AK Bars Kazan of the KHL.

At just 21 years of age, Burmistrov was pretty young to call it quits in the NHL. However, more and more details are surfacing about his reasons, most of which focus on his contentious relationship with Jets head coach Claude Noel.

News of this first surfaced last month via the Winnipeg Sun. Yuri Nikolaev, Burmistrov’s agent, put it short and sweet when asked if a feud with Noel was any fuel for his departure to the KHL. “That was one of the reasons why he left,” he said, and that was about it for elaboration.

Recently, though, Burmistrov opened up a bit on his motivation. It appears a big factor was the amount of ice time he was given as opposed to fellow forward Olli Jokinen. Speaking with Sport-Express in Russia, he claimed Jokinen was not earning the minutes being given to him, minutes Burmistrov felt he should’ve received instead.

Neither player really lit the world on fire offensively last year; Burmistrov scoring four goals and six assists while Jokinen notched seven goals and seven assists. Seems a bit petty to be splitting hairs over the difference of four points.

However, Burmistrov’s relationship with the Jets’ coaching staff has been rocky for a while.

During last season’s lockout, the Russian center wanted very badly to play in the KHL while everything was being ironed out in the NHL. Unfortunately for him, the Jets felt otherwise, choosing instead to send him to the St. John’s IceCaps, Winnipeg’s minor league affiliate. Based on an interview he gave to the Winnipeg Free Press, he was hardly a fan.

“[Playing in St. John’s is] the team’s choice. They decided they wanted to do that, so I have to do it. I will go there and play hockey. If I had the chance it would be nice to play there (AK Bars Kazan). I know the coaches, I played there the first time. But (playing in St. John’s) is what I have to do. It was a decision we made together so that’s fine,” said Burmistrov.

It would seem the ice-time differential between Burmistrov and Jokinen was the final straw, and now the young forward will get his wish to play for AK Bars Kazan, albeit permanently.

For what its worth, Noel took it in stride. In an interview with the Winnipeg Sun during the Jets’ developmental camp, Noel said, “He’s elected to change locations to advance his career — I guess that’s what he believes. But I don’t really have any comment on what somebody else says. If Alexander had problems with me, he’s never mentioned it to me. He’s played two years here, has played a lot of minutes for us and a lot of situations.”

Sometimes you have to remove a few bad apples every now and then. If Burmistrov is openly complaining about the amount of minutes teammates are receiving over him, it’ll probably serve Winnipeg well to have him out of the locker room next season.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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