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On Player Availability

Big props going out to our resident hero, Michael Russo, today. In his blog, of which we are all aware, he gives us our daily information and then gives us something else. He gives us a little view inside the relationship between player and media.

I will not pull too much of his post to comment on, but here are some of the nuggets. Make sure you head over and read the entire post, and maybe buy a subscription to the Trib to support Russo's work.

That clip of Burns refusing to answer questions in full sentences and mumbling under his breath is what we get all the time after games -- when he's willing to come out and talk to us.

And I'm pretty sure Burns has been treated a little better in his tenure than James Sheppard has, yet Sheppard is constantly available, constantly willing to talk even though he knows what critical stories are being written on him.

The media exists not to be a nuisance. These are very well-paid professional athletes, and we are the liaison between the team and the fans. Part of a player's job is to be accountable to the fans who root them on, who pay their salaries!


That's Brent Burns' job. But he clearly doesn't think of it that way.

I'm sorry. This just had to be said. This might have just ruined my dealings with Brent Burns, but you know what, the next time he scores an overtime winner, you can bet that I'll be there to report on it happily.

As I said above. Big props to Russo for going out on the limb with this one. The public relationship between Burns and Russo has always been a positive one, and Burns has benefited from that positive coverage. Burns is a fan favorite both because of his physical play on the ice, and because the media has always  portrayed him in a good light. If Russo, Bruce Brothers, and the sports columnists had called out Burns for the past three years, do you believe he would still have the cache he has now? No way.

Breaking it down, Burns had a terrible season last year. We all blamed it on Lemaire and the experiment with Burns at wing. With a concussion at the end of last season, there are ever more excuses for Burns' play this season. A league worst +/- rating, making Skoula-esque mistakes on nearly a game to game basis, and not showing much of the physical play we are accustomed to seeing.

Burns deserves to be called out. By media, by his coach, and by his teammates.

I remember a story I read last year, but do not remember who wrote it. If someone recognizes it, let me know. The story was discussing why bloggers are not allowed in the press box, and giving some justifications for that. One of the reasons was that beat writers, such as Russo, have to own up to any comments they make in print, and they have to show up in the locker room the next night and face the music. If Russo were to call out Derek Boogaard for taking a stupid penalty, he has to go in there and look Boogaard in the chest and take his proverbial lumps.That is Russo's job.

The correlation here is that players need to face the music, too. Russo mentions a couple players in the post that have done so.Not sure why players assume they don't need to. Granted, there is nothing in the contract that says they have to talk to the media. However, the last time I checked the testosterone meter, part of the deal with being a man is stepping up and not dodging the fight.

Burns has never backed down from a fight on the ice. Why would he do so in the locker room? I've met Russo. He's really not that scary. (Sorry Russo.)

Brent Burns will likely continue to be a fan favorite, despite his poor play. He has the personality for it. That said, if he will not own up to his poor play, and will not explain what the issue may be, then well informed fans will turn away from him.

There really are not many directions to take this story. Burns is playing poorly. Russo called him on it, and on his lack of public accountability. We can only hope that he is owning up to it with his teammates.