San Jose Sharks defenseman Kyle Burroughs finds himself in a much different spot than he was with his hometown Vancouver Canucks last season.
After grinding his way through the New York Islanders’ minor-league system and having a cup of coffee in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Burroughs got the chance to play for his childhood favorite team for two seasons.
He was prepared for the fish bowl.
“When I went into [Vancouver], I wasn’t on my first [experience] of pro hockey. And obviously, it’s a lot different. They have a lot of hype, attention, and expectations on that team. Good or bad, there’s always going to be people asking questions and people are going to want answers,” Burroughs said. “Whether it be my friends or family, [what] we were going through the last two years, they kinda wanted an inside scoop. I just did, to the best of my ability, play hockey and let them come up with their own ideas in their head.”
The Canucks went through three coaching changes in the last two seasons, going from Travis Green to Bruce Boudreau to Rick Tocchet.
The 28-year-old finds himself in a whole new world in San Jose.
“We can go hand out trick-or-treat candy, go walk the dogs, do whatever, go anywhere, and just be anonymous,” Burroughs said the morning after Halloween.
“Obviously, as people and as athletes, we have chances to give back to the community and that’s the chance where we can show ourselves, help out and be a part of the community. But for the most part, we can kind of just adapt and be normal people within the community, which has been great.”
The San Jose Sharks are in the midst of a lengthy rebuild and it has shown on the ice to start the 2023-24 season.
They are the lone team without a win in the NHL at 0-8-1. The Canucks, on the other hand, are a surprising 6-2-1.
After signing a three-year, $3.3 million contract this summer, Burroughs hopes to play a big role in turning things around in San Jose.
“It’s easy for us to play and kind of focus on our work and try to get better every day,” Burroughs said of San Jose, as compared to Vancouver. “As an organization, we need to build momentum, gain confidence, and do things the right way.”
The coaching staff sees Burroughs as part of that solution.
After mainly taking a third-pairing role in Vancouver, averaging 17:22 a night, Burroughs is playing 20:04 a game now, second on the Sharks, and for the first time in his NHL career, has taken a regular role on the power play.
Was that opportunity a big reason why he signed in San Jose?
”For me, I just wanted to go out and play,” Burroughs said. “When I signed here, I knew nothing was guaranteed. There is opportunity within organizations and you need to work hard for it. Anything in this league is earned, it’s not given, and for me, I just needed to play within myself.”
He conceded, as did San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn, that he wasn’t necessarily expecting to be on the power play. His last pro PP goal was in Jan. 2018 for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“In the past, I’ve had those experiences and opportunities like this to be ready for this moment. But with the enhanced role and stuff like that, it’s just what we all love to do: Play hockey,” Burroughs said. “That’s the biggest thing for me and I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Burroughs had the option to stay with his hometown Canucks when he became an unrestricted free agent in July but ended up choosing the Sharks when they offered him, it appears, a longer deal of three years as opposed to two.
“There was a lot of mutual interest in getting stuff done. It came down to the wire, and just like in any business deal, it just kinda fell through,” Burroughs said.
“No hard feelings on that side, and obviously it was a dream to play for my hometown team, but having the trust of the San Jose Sharks and Mike Grier and obviously coming in here and having the responsibility I have, I can’t say I regret anything.
“Being a Shark is an honor, and for the next three years, I’m going to wear that as a badge of honor and do my best to win hockey games here.”
Burroughs has yet to record a point this season and San Jose’s power play sits at a putrid 3-for-24, good for eighth-worst in the NHL, but the Sharks are happy with what he brings there.
He’s been on the Sharks’ top PP unit for the last four games.
“He looks comfortable. He just makes good decisions,” Quinn said. “He doesn’t try to do too much and sometimes that’s all you need to do on a power play when you’ve got five and they’ve got four.”
Quinn added: “He is playing more minutes than he is used to and in role that he’s not used to and that can affect other aspects of his game. But for the most part, he’s had a really good season. He plays with pace, he’s physical, he can move a puck, he skates well, so there’s a lot to like about his game.”
He’s excited to play against his hometown team for the very first time.
“It adds a lot of extra fuel,” Burroughs said.
“When you are on the ice, there are no friendships out there. We’re gonna go to war and we’ll laugh about it afterwards. But I’m excited to get out there and compete against those guys.”
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