Murph’s Musings: Scott Burnside Did His Job

David Poile
David Poile
USA Hockey Executive Director and GM David Poile Brad Penner USA TODAY Sports

First off a Happy New Year to all! May all your wildest puck dreams come true and good health find you!

Speaking of dreams, tis the time of the season when plenty of aspiring and potential Olympic hockey players’ dreams of donning their country’s colors are fulfilled and crushed. Unfortunately we tend to focus on the crushed dreams and second-guess the ones that were granted or fulfilled. But then again, as a member of media, the reality is that controversy sells and when it comes to selections from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada there was — and will remain until either team wins a medal – plenty of controversy. So in this latest edition of “Murph’s Musings” I will give you my take on that but as the Olympics draw closer I promise I’ll deliver some positives.

Let’s start with the debacle that was the USA Hockey selection process. Their decision to allow journalists to sit through the whole process and subsequently document and print some information and quotes that in hindsight may have not been suitable for not just public consumption but also the players they were evaluating backfired and they now find themelves in hot water before the games even begin. Before I even begin to react to some of the critiques of players such as Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle that were divulged, let me point out something that many — including legendary hockey personality Don Cherry — are off-base on.

Scott Burnside of is one of the journalists (along with Kevin Allen of USA Today) who was embedded with the USA Hockey selection committee. Burnside has received unwarranted criticism for his choice to include the aforementioned and controversial quotes in his very insightful piece. Many critics are questioning Burnside’s journalistic ethics for using USA Director Of Player Personnel Brian Burke’s harsh quotes on Senators forward Bobby Ryan’s lack of intensity as well as Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle’s ability to play defense and avoid turnovers. Cherry even went as far as calling Burnside a “rat” and stating that he somehow violated an unspoken code or agreement the writer and the selection committee (in his eyes) had.

My question to these critics of Burnside is, if Burnside violated this supposed understood but not spoken agreement, then why, as he acknowledged, did USA Hockey Executive Director and GM David Poile acknowledge publicly in a teleconference last week that he and his staff failed to make sure the “harsh” quotes didn’t go public and that it was their lack of communication that led to this?

“Happy to have them part of our team, if you will,” Poile said of having Burnside and Allen embedded with them through what was a process that took over five months.

Unfortunately the comments were a little harsh. The problem that we had with a communication breakdown that happened there was we thought this was similar to a ’24/7′ situation where we had editorial review on what was going to be said. It caught all of us off-guard. And again, that’s on us.”

I think all of you know that in a management setting we’re dealing on a daily basis with talking about our players. Sometimes positively; sometimes critically. Again, what goes on in the room should stay in the room. And unfortunately, this was a characterization that on the whole was not representative of what actually happened. …For the things that were said against Bobby Ryan, there was many, many things that were said positively about Bobby Ryan, and I’m just sorry that got out. As managers, I’m speaking for myself and Brian Burke and the other guys on our committee.

So then how is Burnside a “rat” here again? He was simply doing his job and knowing the man he is, I can assure you that if he had been asked to omit any of the comments in question then he would’ve done just that. Burnside is essentially the messenger here and if the recipients of that message aren’t happy they should take that up with Poile or Burke.

USA will miss Ryan and Yandle; Canada will regret not bring St. Louis

Let’s just forget for a second the salt that USA hockey left in the wound for Bobby Ryan, as well as Keith Yandle who in the words of Burke “is a disaster waiting to happen every time he touches the puck.” In his last four full seasons, Ryan put up 30 goals or more. This season he already has 18 goals and 37 points in 45 games. That doesn’t happen without intensity. And given that key to winning is to score more goals than the opponent I’m just puzzled how his presence in Sochi would be a bad thing. I guess we will find out but something tells me the USA Hockey selection committee won’t like what they find when entrenched in a tight game with a medal on the line … should they get that far.

They also won’t like it when Justin Faulk or Cam Fowler – two talented up and coming blueliners who aren’t ready for this grand stage – make disasterous turnovers in crucial situations, while Keith Yandle – the highest scoring American born defenseman over the last four years – isn’t on the ice because he wasn’t invited. I’ll take Yandle’s ability to create offense and what many of his teammates and coach with the Coyotes told me was a “drastically improved” defensive game over the inexperience of Faulk and Fowler.

Maybe Burke should’ve paid closer attention to Dean Lombardi’s version of “Gone With The Wind” that showed in detail why Yandle should be on the USA roster and maybe as Executive Director and GM, Poile should’ve stepped in and put his foot down on Burke’s agenda and ego.

It should be noted too that while both Yandle and Ryan didn’t make the cut for Team USA, they can still be injury replacements. Based on Ryan’s reaction to Burke’s comments though, calling him “gutless” chances are slim he’d accept an invite now. And while Yandle may not accept one either you have to love the class he showed as pointed out by Elliotte Friedman in his latest “30 Thoughts” column for Yandle apparently told Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic that he wouldn’t accept the invite because it meant someone else couldn’t go. Class.

While Burke has the excuse of not seeing Yandle as much as Lombardi and realizing just how well-rounded his game is, Hockey Canada GM Steve Yzerman really has no excuse to have maybe one of the most overrated players of the last decade, Rick Nash, in his lineup instead of one of the most underappreciated in Martin St. Louis. If as Yzerman repeatedly stated, the goal was to build a “team” and not and “all star team” then why leave off a player who like Yzerman in his playing days, is the ultimate team player and leader in St. Louis? It’s just another example of how politics and agenda sadly take over in these team selection processes.

As a result of this omission, you can bet the “St. Louis wants out of Tampa Bay” rumors will begin in earnest soon. In fact, the Tampa Bay media is suggesting that could be the case already. But knowing the consummate professional that St. Louis is, he’ll just continue to lead the surprising Lightning and let his stick do the talking.

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James Murphy
Jimmy Murphy has covered the NHL in print, radio and television for the last 13 years. In addition to his work here at, he currently hosts The Top Shelf Radio Show heard every Monday-Friday 1-3 PM ET on and 2-3 PM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio.