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Burrows backs moves, sees playoffs

by Arpon Basu / Vancouver Canucks

TERREBONNE, Quebec - Alexandre Burrows watched from his suburban Montreal home as his Vancouver Canucks underwent a bit of a makeover this offseason, and he never questioned it.

Now, with training camp about a month away, Burrows said he sees no reason Vancouver can't remain competitive in a tough Western Conference while in the midst of what Canucks president Trevor Linden has called a transition period.

"I put my confidence in our management group of [general manager] Jim Benning and Trevor Linden," Burrows said Tuesday at a charity golf tournament hosted by Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. "They're obviously intelligent people with a plan, and last season was the first year of their plan."

Burrows' measured reaction is in stark contrast to that of the Canucks fan base, which has concerns over some of the moves Vancouver has made this summer.

The trade of goaltender Eddie Lack to the Carolina Hurricanes for two third-round draft picks was perhaps the least popular decision made by the Canucks among their fans. Benning admitted in a gathering of season-ticket holders this summer that there was interest from other teams to acquire Ryan Miller, but he chose instead to trade Lack.

"With the goalie controversy we had with Luongo and Schneider, they didn't want to have a similar controversy with Miller and Lack," Burrows said. "They signed Ryan Miller for three years, but Lack had a strong finish to the season when Miller was out with a knee injury. They traded Lack away and there were some fans who wanted a better return on the trade, but was it possible? They're not on the phone like the GM."

Burrows also welcomed the arrival of center Brandon Sutter, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for center Nick Bonino and defenseman Adam Clendening and then signed to a five-year contract extension with an average value of $4.375 million, according to war-on-ice.com.

"I considered Brandon Sutter to be an excellent player with the Penguins, I really thought he was great against the [New York] Rangers in the playoffs," Burrows said. "He has the potential to become a cornerstone of our team, like Trevor Linden said."

The one Canucks move from this summer that Burrows found harder to swallow was the trade of defenseman Kevin Bieksa to the Anaheim Ducks for a second-round pick at the 2016 NHL Draft.

"The departure of Kevin Bieksa, for me, was obviously a little disappointing because we've played on the same team for 11 or 12 years," Burrows said. "He's a warrior. But the team wanted to get younger and provide an opportunity to our defensemen playing in the American [Hockey] League to get a spot on the team, so they traded Kevin to Anaheim.

"It's a transition period for a new management team, and we have confidence in them. As players, we'll just make sure we're ready for training camp."

Burrows laughs off the idea that Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, who each turns 35 on Sept. 26, are in decline. Burrows said the Sedin twins finish first and second in Canucks fitness tests every year at training camp, and he expects to see nothing different next month. But most importantly, Burrows said he does not feel age will have any impact on their ability to be effective.

"The thing with them is they're so smart they're able to slow the game down to their own pace," he said. "They're so smart reading plays offensively. Both of them won an Art Ross Trophy, both of them had 100 points seasons without having an [Alex] Ovechkin shot or Patrick Kane's stickhandling or blazing speed. They just do it with their smarts, and that doesn't really change if you get older."

Burrows said he expects the Canucks to compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He said the competitive Western Conference remains wide open and the Canucks will be one of the teams fighting at the end.

"Who's going to win the Cup next year? Who's really in contention in the West?" Burrows asked. "There's so many good teams. Are the Stars going to get in and make a push? Are the Kings going to get in and make a push? Are the Blackhawks going to win again? There's so much parity. We have a lot of good pieces in Vancouver. The [Sedin] twins are going to be good, [Radim] Vrbata's going to have another good year, I'm going to have a good year, we have a lot of good young guys coming up.

"So I see it as another year where we have to have guys that will push the right way. We'll have good team chemistry, have 20 guys on the same page that will have the same goal. If we do that, we're as good as anybody else."

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