Tortorella wants team to think aggressively
New bench boss set on implementing puck-possession system, adding pressure to forecheck
The first week of training camp for the Vancouver Canucks was all about conditioning and could be summed up in five words: Skate. Then skate some more.
On Friday, the page was turned to Phase 2, which also figures to be physically taxing but will also require the players to do some thinking. Head coach John Tortorella is introducing a new system and on Friday spent considerable time at the rinkside chalkboard trying to explain it to his players before running them through some drills while he and his staff shouted instructions.
In a nutshell, Tortorella's system is about putting pressure on the puck. If you lose possession of it, you work hard to win it back as quickly as possible.
Among other things, it means a more aggressive forecheck in the offensive zone.
"There are a lot of differences for the guys who have been here for the last (few) years," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "We have been playing pretty much the same way, the same system. To learn new systems and to have them stick is going to take some time.
"When you are playing and you rely on instincts you are just going to do the things you did before, but we are going to have to think a different way. There will be more pressure on the forecheck, getting ready to go, everybody, and just playing fast. We played fast last year but this is a little bit more aggressive style."
Bieksa also thinks the change is a good thing.
"It's nice, it's a different way of playing," he said. "It's a clean slate and hopefully it sparks our group a little bit and gets us playing less in our end and more in the other team's end. It's more aggressive, more of an attack style. It's a different look for the teams we have been playing the last five or six years who got used to us coming at them with a 1-2-2 or a 2-1-2. It's a little bit different."
Tortorella said introducing a new system has its challenges for players and will take some time. In addition to considerable on-ice work, players will watch plenty of video.
He said one of the biggest challenges is "implementing yours and also getting them out of how they played before."
He said that is not an indictment of the previous regime. "Again, it's not a criticism of how they played before," he said. "It's been a very successful team, but there are certain things I like to do differently. We just told the players today, we are just beginning it and I am going to show them tape of the games but to their defence we haven't gone over anything. We will watch the games, and if we are not aggressive enough on the puck, they are going to see clips of that. How we enter the zone forechecking, our neutral zone forechecking. All that is going to start coming into
play in the next couple of weeks to create our team concept."
Winger Chris Higgins perhaps has the best perspective on how things will change system-wise under Tortorella.
Higgins played the past two seasons in Vancouver under former coach Alain Vigneault, but played for Tortorella with the New York Rangers in 2009-10.
"There's just a little bit more pressure on the puck," Higgins said of Tortorella's style. "I think the read to go (forecheck) is going to happen more than pull back and give up ice. I don't think he wants to give up too much ice. Just being hard on the puck, that mindset has to be a little bit stronger for us."
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun