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Addition of Burish upgrades Stars’ grit factor

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

All Adam Burish wanted was to feel wanted.

And when the salary cap-challenged Chicago Black Hawks allowed the 27-year-old forward to leave as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, he was touched and thrilled when Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk immediately set out to woo him. 

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“I’d never gone through a free agent process before and I had no idea what to expect and my agent said Joe Nieuwendyk called right away,” said Burish, who participated in 15 playoff games for the Black Hawks this season en route to their first Stanley Cup triumph in 49 years. “And for me, that was kind of exciting, that he was the first guy that called in the morning. I wanted to go to a place where I felt I could jump in, I could contribute right away, I can play. Things that I’m good at, that I feel I can bring to the table, they recognized it and so that excited me right away. You want to go somewhere where people want you, and with the interest right away, that’s where I wanted to go.”

“I’ve always liked Adam Burish,” Nieuwendyk said. “Adam is a character guy who has been known as a solid teammate in Chicago and we expect him to be the same here in Dallas. We want to be a team that is hard to play against and Adam definitely fits that mold. He’s played in 32 playoff games over the last two years, including 15 in Chicago’s Stanley Cup run this past spring.”

Burish acknowledged that he did have a few other options on where he could have gone, but he kept coming back to the fact that Dallas seemed the most interested in him. Plus, he had a lot of respect for the organization and how difficult an opponent they were in the past.

“There were a couple of other teams,” revealed Burish, who signed a deal for $2.3 million over two years ($1 million in 2010-11 and $1.3 million in 2011-12). “And I talked with my dad and with my agent, and they said, ‘I can hear in your voice that you want to go to Dallas. I can tell just by the way that you’re talking about it that you want to go there.’ It was funny, the last four years, I always loved coming to Dallas, I loved playing in Dallas, and I always hated playing against the Stars. I thought they were always hard to play against, and so now I’m going to be happy to play with those guys.”

Burish, who suffered a torn ACL in his knee last September in training camp and returned in March to register one goal and three assists in just 13 regular season games in 2009-10, improves the Stars’ team speed and grit factor.

“We just became a harder team to play against,” Nieuwendyk said. “Again, I’ll just stress the speed factor with Adam - one of the things I felt we needed to address was our team speed and I think Adam gives us that and he’ll be real hard on the forecheck.”

While not the biggest guy at 6-feet, 190 pounds, Burish enjoys being physical and can drop the gloves with regularity, as his 214 penalty minutes in 2007-08, which ranked third in the entire NHL, attests. Burish also features impressive versatility - he can line up at right wing or center, is a solid face-off man, and can be deployed with equal effectiveness on a high-octane scoring line or a hard-hitting energy line.

“The thing I like a lot about him is that he’s able to take face-offs, he can play center or wing, he’s a right-hand shot and he’s got real good speed,” Nieuwendyk noted. “I saw a number of playoff games and the ones that he did play, he was on the ice a lot with (offensive star Patrick) Kane and he was the first guy in on the forecheck. He plays a real in-your-face, abrasive style. I just think he’ll push the pace in our bottom grouping and has the ability to play up the lineup.”

His feistiness on the ice should fit right in with Stars agitator Steve Ott, with whom he’s had a couple of run-ins in the past. Burish indicated that he just tries to make the opposition’s job tougher, and notes that he has a lot of respect for his new teammate.

“The way I play the game, I’m confrontational, I want to be in your face, I want to be hard to play against,” said Burish, a native of Madison, WI, who suited up for Team USA at the 2008 World Championships, earning three assists in seven games. “And when the game is done, I want them to say, ‘Man, I can’t stand playing against Burish, I hate playing against that guy,’ and then I know I’ve done my job. I like to have that in my game. I think I can contribute offensively as well, but you have to have a balance, you’ve got to play on the edge and I enjoy playing on that edge. I love the way Steve Ott plays, I think he does a great job of it. You have to walk a fine line where you’re not going to put your team in a tough spot.” 

Burish is also confident that, as a guy that works hard and is willing to put his body on the line for the team, he can provide some leadership in the dressing room.

“I’m going to give you everything I got,” vowed Burish, who was originally selected by the Black Hawks in the ninth round (282nd overall!) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. “I’m going to go through a wall for these guys, and if that means I’ve got to go through somebody, I’m going to go through somebody. I don’t care how big you are, I don’t care what you look like. That’s the attitude I want to bring. I’ll stop a slap shot with my face if I have to, and I think that’s a contagious attitude and if you have a whole team that buys into that, and guys are willing to do it... If I go and dive in front a puck with my face, then the next guy’s thinking, ‘Geez, if he’s doing that, then I better jump in front of one, too.’ And if I go hard to the net and jam in a rebound, then everyone else needs to be going to the net too, and that’s just a contagious attitude that I hope I can bring to the group.”

Besides that unrelenting determination, another impressive thing about Burish is that he’s a winner. He helped the University of Wisconsin win the NCAA national championship his senior year in 2006, contributing nine goals and 33 points in 42 games, and of course, played a role in Chicago’s playoff success the last two years. 

“I learned a ton the last two years,” said Burish, who chipped in three goals and two assists in 17 post-season contests for Chicago in 2009. “Two years ago to go to the Conference Finals and then last year, just getting to the Finals and winning a championship, you realize how hard it is, how emotional it is, and at the same time, you have to learn to balance everything. You lose a game, you feel like your world is ending and you’re going to lose the series, it’s all over. And for me, I just found that the way I am in the locker room, just being a fun guy and trying to keep everything even-keeled, was such a positive thing. And you learn that.”

Having a guy with that type of experience can only be a positive for the Stars, as they try to return to the post-season after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. When they do make it back there, the presence of a calm, reassuring voice like Burish’s will help.

“I think going through those pressure situations, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, I won a Cup - any situation you throw at me now, I feel like, ‘Heck, I’ve been there, I’ve done that,’” Burish said. “I remember sitting there in Game 1 and just thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I’m in the Stanley Cup Finals right now.’ And you can just feel the pressure, you can feel the intensity - it’s greater than anything I’ve ever been a part of. And I’ve been there now. And I’ve told some people that you win a championship, it’s like a drug - you want to do it again. You want more of it, you can’t get enough of it, and I want to go and do it again now.”

Just hearing the man talk gets you all fired up, doesn’t it? That’s another reason Nieuwendyk was so keen on adding him to the Stars lineup. Overall, Burish helps make them a better team.

“I’m excited about it,” Nieuwendyk said of Burish joining the Stars family. “I think we’re adding to our lineup and we’ve addressed some needs that we’ve had on our board for quite some time now - the speed factor, a right shot, the potential of a face-off guy that can help us out.”

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