NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa:
Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella wants more players like defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
"He's a gunslinger," Tortorella told reporters following a game last week. "I like that. We need more gunslingers."
Bieksa told NHL.com he wasn't sure what to make of Tortorella's "gunslinger" comment because all he's trying to do is go out and play his game, but he knows it was a compliment and he appreciates it as much as he appreciates the way Tortorella is allowing him to play.
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He's an aggressive player who likes to attack, and the Canucks are letting Bieksa do just that.
Entering the game Monday against the Washington Capitals he had five assists and a plus-10 rating while averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game. His aggressiveness doesn't mean he's a defensive liability either as Bieksa, entering Monday, had been on the ice for only four 5-on-5 goals against and just one 5-on-5 goal against in a tie game, according to stats compiled by ExtraSkater.com.
Bieksa talked to NHL.com about his style and what he has experienced so far under Tortorella.
Here are Five Questions With ... Kevin Bieksa:
The same night Tortorella called you a "gunslinger" you mentioned to reporters that his system requires you to be "all over the place" and you "love it." Why?
"I don't think I meant that as literal as it was taken. I'm not all over [the place]. If anything I feel like I'm a little bit more structured. The coaching staff has done a good job of breaking down video, how they want us to play defensively. If anything it's being more patient defensively and not running around, so it's kind of funny that that's the way it was taken. I didn't mean it that way.
"Defensively, we're trying to be a little more patient, let the forwards do more of the skating and we take care of the front of our net. But [joining] the rush, it has always been encouraged here, it's just really encouraged right now for keeping pucks in. The forwards have always told us they want us pinching all the time and keeping pucks in. Occasionally we're going to get caught and there is not going to be a forward coming back, and that's the forward's responsibility. They understand that now, that they have to be the one covering for us.
"Everyone wants zone time. No forward wants to skate in and out, in and out. They want us keeping pucks in, and that's what we're doing."
Do you think the patient defense, aggressive offense style suits you best?
"Absolutely. It's not hard to see I'm an aggressive personality and that's the way I like to play the game. I like to play aggressively and in your face. Sitting back offensively is tough. You want to attack, so I embrace it."
There's always a perception of coaches when they come in because guys talk to other players around the League. Has the perception of Tortorella met reality?
"I don't know because there have been different perceptions that [we've] heard. He's an honest guy. That's the one thing right from the get go that he made clear, that he was going to be brutally honest. That was the only way he saw his way of coaching. That's his style. His style is to let you know when you're doing something wrong, let you know when you're doing something right, break it down. I think everybody in here has developed a pretty thick skin now.
Entering Monday, Kevin Bieksa
had been on the ice for only four 5-on-5 goals against and just one 5-on-5 goal against in a tie game. (Photo: Getty Images)
"I don't think he picks on one or two guys. He'll let basically anybody know if they're not making the right play or if they're out of position, but he does it in a constructive way. It's not like he's yelling or degrading guys, he's doing it because he wants to win. He'll even ask, 'Do you understand what I'm saying?' He's open to dialogue too. It's been good."
It's a veteran team, you've come one win away from winning the Stanley Cup, and now there is an entirely new coaching staff in place. Do you think it is harder for a veteran team, one that has had its core together for years under one coach, to adjust to a new staff?
"Anyone that has been around this team knows we're a veteran team, but we're a different kind of veteran team. We're not an ego-driven, I'll-do-what-I-want-to-do kind of team. We've always been coachable. I'm talking about the guys that I've been with here for eight-to-10 years. We've always been coachable. We listen. We want to get better.
"So, you know, I saw that from the beginning. There wasn't going to be any clash. Everybody thought there was going to be a clash of the titans when Torts came in, but this is a group that wants to win and will do whatever it takes, will listen, be coached and apply it."
Has the adjustment to Tortorella been what you expected it to be, or has it taken any longer or shorter than you initially thought?
"The adjustment has come pretty quick. We grinded out a lot of video and we're going to continue to do it until we get everything down. There are different areas we're trying to be better at, but we address those in video and try to go out there and perform and apply it. That's the process."