Andre Burakovsky is a Colorado Avalanche

Andre Burakovsky is a Colorado Avalanche. A member of the Colorado Avalanche. It’s a bit strange, and not just grammatically.

Burakovsky was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2013. He was the 23rd overall pick. To put him into context, peer-wise, that’s the same year Nathan MacKinnon, his new teammate, was drafted. Now, MacKinnon is a superstar. Perhaps he’s the second-best player on the planet right now. (Sorry, Sidney.) Burakovsky is not that.

What Burakovsky is, is a player with a lot of potential. For a few seasons now, he’s been a player with a lot of potential and he’s never quite reached it. It’s not entirely his fault, and neither is it entirely the fault of the coaching staff. Burakovsky has suffered a number of hand injuries over the seasons. At the start of the 2017-18 season, he was playing superbly and then suffered a thumb injury, which required surgery. Since then, it’s been a bumpy course. He was injured in the 2018 playoffs but returned to glorious form to score two beautiful goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final, securing the Capitals’ victory.

When Burakovsky is good, he’s very very good. When he’s bad, he’s absent (sometimes quite literally, when he’s scratched). He’s been a subject of a great deal of frustration, especially when players like Jakub Vrana and (even!) Tom Wilson have passed him by. His ice time was dropping and dropping which is never a good indicator of anything other than a coach’s dwindling faith in his abilities. Personally, I think he was deserving of more ice time, especially latterly.

Peter Hassett, over at Russian Machine Never Breaks, does an annual review of players. This season’s review of Burakovsky is well worth reading (here). Honestly, for me the frustration was that Burakovsky was just getting going again, at the end of the season. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this would have continued into next season.

What the Colorado Avalanche are getting is a quick player, who needs to improve his shot, but has the potential to provide the depth scoring they desperately need.

What we, as Capitals fans, are losing, in addition to an occasionally frustrating but clearly talented player, is an utterly charming young man who once, famously, got into a car, believing it was his Uber. Reader, it was not.

Honestly, I think the trade was the right thing for the player (change of scenery) and for the team (salary dump; never pretty but often necessary). I’m sad about this trade, purely because Burakovsky was one of the first Washington Capitals I met and one of the first jerseys I bought. Do I think that the team are worse without him? Honestly, I’m not sure that they are. I don’t think we’re looking at Filip Forsberg 2.0 here, on any level and I wish Andre the very, very best of luck.

Where are they now?

For the record, the 2013 Washington Capitals draft class looks like this:

  • Madison Bowey (53rd) won the Stanley Cup with the Caps in 2018; traded to the Detroit Red Wings
  • Zach Sanford (61st) was traded to the St Louis Blues as part of the Shattenkirk trade; he’s now a Stanley Cup Champion. Kevin Shattenkirk is not.
  • Blake Heinrich (144th), most recently with the Rapid City Rush (ECHL)
  • Brian Pinho (174th), re-signed to the Washington Capitals in May of this year, having completed his first season with the Hershey Bears (4G, 12P in 73GP)
  • Tyler Lewington (204th), of the Hershey Bears, made quite the impact with the Washington Capitals last season, clocking the team’s first Gordie Howe hat-trick in seven years.

So, the Capitals have cleared some cap space and, I guess, we better watch this space, to see what middle six forward is coming to DC…

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