Adam Burish may not have been the "splashy" free agent signing that Dallas Stars fans were hoping for this past summer. Burish was primarily known as an agitator for the Chicago Blackhawks and became some infamous for his Stanley Cup celebration comments about Chris Pronger. Some may have wondered exactly why the Stars felt there was a need for a player like Burish with Steve Ott already on the team; we've already seen one experiment with two agitators on the Stars fail miserably.
Yet the Dallas Stars and Adam Burish knew that he was much more than just an "agitator" with a bit too much to say at times.
For the Dallas Stars, a team already full of talent at the forward positions, Burish represented a step in the right direction in changing the culture and tone of team. Last season we heard about the Stars wanting to become more aggressive, faster and wanting to play more uptempo hockey; unfortunately, we were never able to actually witness this change. With certain players moving on and others motivated to work with Crawford in his system, the addition of a player that embodied the exact nature of the proposed change would be key.
Through three games, it appears that Adam Burish may have been that key for change.
Though he has no points through three games, despite playing with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro, Burish has instantly sparked the Dallas Stars to success. It's tough to believe that a player who doesn't play on the power play and one who has yet to score could have that big an impact, yet if you watch Burish you realize that the rest of the Stars are feeding off his approach to the game.
Burish is much more than just an agitator; in fact, Burish has to be penalized and has rarely tried to stir the pot. Instead, he is using his speed, hockey intelligence and tenacity each shift he's on the ice. While he has yet to get a point, he's created multiple chances for his linemates and his ability to create havoc in front of the net has directly led to two goals so far in the young season.
The Dallas Stars, while still facing some issues on defense, have shown the ability to play great team defense and have used a revamped backchecking approach to thwart the top lines of the teams they've faced. Burish has been at the center of this backchecking and defensive approach, as he's flashed his deceptively fast skating ability in order to track down offensive rushes the other direction.
Some might have been worried that Burish would just be another Steve Ott clone, creating trouble and wreaking havoc up and down the ice. While it's great to see Ott continue in that role, Burish has proven so far this season that if you play smart, if you play with heart and if you play aggressive then much more good will come from it.
While Brenden Morrow has returned to his old ways, you have to feel that the Dallas Stars are feeding the most off the approach of their newest teammate. Burish represents the speed and the aggression that Marc Crawford has been preaching about since coming to Dallas and the team is witnessing first hand how that approach can be successful when applied to the rest of the team.
More importantly, it's apparent that Burish is relishing his role with the Dallas Stars. In Chicago, Burish was knocked down to a fourth line checking role and was a healthy scratch through most of the playoffs. In Dallas, he's earned a spot on the second line and is getting significant minutes throughout the game. He's an important part of the future of the Dallas Stars and he knows it; it's amazing how motivated a player can become when he knows he's wanted and needed on the team.
I understand that fans have been a bit frustrated with the state of the Dallas Stars over the past few seasons and when Joe Nieuwendyk was hired, many expected immediate changes. The reality is that, especially with a general manager like Nieuwendyk, that a change in the overall culture of team doesn't happen overnight. Saying that you want the team to change doesn't mean that it's going to just...happen. That alteration of the team's direction has to come with time and with calculated personnel decisions.
Part of that process was the departure of Mike Modano and Marty Turco. I know fans hate seeing Modano elsewhere but Nieuwendyk was forced to make a tough decision with the future of the team in mind. The Stars also needed players like Morrow, Ribeiro and Brad Richards to fully buy into what Nieuwendyk and Crawford are looking for and that's taken time as well. Yet the Stars also needed a player that could come in, embrace the system and embody the style and approach that the general manager and coach were looking for; Adam Burish is that player.
Burish is going to get his scoring chances; he's just too talented to go too long without any points. In the meantime, he'll continue to provide a physical presence on a dangerous scoring line, he'll continue to provide great defensive coverage and he'll continue to set the example for the rest of the Stars on how playing a complete game from goal to goal is so important in this system.
Being a right-handed shot doesn't hurt either.