Burnett gets another shot

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

When Windsor Spitfires boss Bob Boughner jumped to the Columbus Blue Jackets this year, he also had to surrender his assistant coaching duties with the Canadian world junior team.

And suddenly, a long-closed door finally reopened for George Burnett.

The Belleville Bulls GM and head coach, who will help top dog Dave Cameron in Buffalo this time around, had his original shot at coaching Canada's best band of youngsters 12 years ago.

He had to quit.

"In 1998, I was the head coach for the Canadian team going to the '99 tournament in Winnipeg," recalled Burnett, the Guelph Storm's skipper at the time. "It was at the summer evaluation camp that Craig Hartsburg called me and offered me an assistant position with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim so I had to step down."

Such is the revolving coaching carousel of the hockey lifer.

Tom Renney, part of the Hockey Canada search committee to replace Burnett back then, stepped behind the bench himself. Right now, he coaches the Edmonton Oilers, the team Burnett ran for a half-season 15 years ago.

Hartsburg eventually ended up back in the junior ranks and, while with Sault Ste. Marie, coached the Canadian juniors to a couple of gold medals in recent years.

So did Burnett and he has been active in Hockey Canada's international program lately at the under-18 level, which obviously led to this long-awaited assignment.

Does the 48-year-old former London Knight from Port Perry wish to again put in his name for the future big job, say, in 2012? Cameron had been a dutiful assistant with the program before landing the head role this time around.

"You always jump at the chance to work with the best young players in the world," Burnett said. "It's an opportunity not to be taken lightly and I'm looking forward to going this year. It's a special tournament and I'm there to assist Dave to try to help the team succeed."

He has got some work to do on the homefront before shuffling off to Buffalo.

The revamped Bulls were head-scratchingly bad to start this season. They won only two of their first nine games.

It wasn't what Burnett -- or fans at the Yardmen Arena -- were expecting.

"We dug ourselves a hole right off the start," Burnett said, "but there have been signs lately that there's some light ahead. We expected this team to be in the middle of the pack in our conference and I think we're starting to move in that direction."

He's in a bit of a rush to get up there. Nobody in the country wants Burnett to be still trying to turn around the Bulls when it's time to break down top teams like the United States and Sweden next month.

Cameron and Co. already are holding weekly meetings. With the Canada-Russia Super Series about to start, the world junior chatter is on.

"Any big changes we make (to the Bulls) will happen before I leave for Buffalo," Burnett said, "and there are changes coming. We have 27 players on our roster right now and that's too many.

"I never like to wait until the trade deadline (in January) to make moves. All the big moves, I want done earlier. Then, you leave some room for tinkering at the deadline if you need it."

When Burnett's gone, Jake Grimes will run the Bulls. But he's off after Christmas to coach the Ontario under-17s. Assistant Jason Supryka and goalie coach Sebastien Farrese will chip in.

"And I'm sure (assistant GM) Barclay Branch will be in there, too," Burnett said.

In Mississauga, Cameron doesn't have to panic yet, if possible. His Majors look Memorial Cup-worthy hosts so far with a 12-2 record.

"Dave's team is top three in our conference right now," Burnett said. "Their goaltending is solid and with Dave, they're always well prepared."

The world junior team should be, too. Most of the coaching staff has waited a long time for this.

AROUND THE O

Can't decide what's more impressive: Owen Sound F Garrett Wilson's league-best 16 goals or Attack teammate Joey Hishon's 10 goals in six games. If Hishon stays healthy, the Attack could have two 50 goal guys ... London G Michael Houser is a league-best 3-0 in shootouts this year ... Former Niagara IceDogs GM Dave Brown is now the assistant manager of hockey operations for Erie under GM Sherry Bassin ... Only undefeated teams on home ice left in the OHL? Memorial Cup host Mississauga and Saginaw ... If it's all right for Canadian and Russian world junior hopefuls to play each other in a series of exhibition games this month, then why shouldn't the Swedes recruit Plymouth Whalers forward Rickard Rakell to play in a bunch of games against American universities this week. Fair is fair.

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