‘Nice to meet you’: Canucks’ Alex Burrows, new bench boss John Tortorella still in meet-and-greet stage (with video)
‘They told me to expect a really tough training camp and, so far, they weren’t wrong,’ says veteran winger
Veteran Vancouver Canucks winger Alex Burrows takes a break during the NHL team’s training camp on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 at UBC.
Photograph by: wayne leidenfrost, PNG
VANCOUVER — Veteran forward Alex Burrows and new Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella are apparently going to learn about one another on the fly.
Burrows, a Canuck since 2006, did not have a single conversation with Tortorella over the summer and their first chat was at the team’s fishing trip up north last weekend. It was, according to Burrows, a brief conversation at that.
“I met him as soon as we got in on the bus and it was pretty much: ‘Hi, coach. Hi, Alex. Nice to meet you,’ ” Burrows recalled Thursday. “And that was pretty much it.”
Burrows did do some pre-training camp research on the new boss, though, and discovered what to expect.
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“Well, they told me to expect a really tough training camp and, so far, they weren’t wrong,” Burrows said after Day 2. “They were right on. We’ve had some good camps before testing-wise but I think this is definitely up there.”
Day 1 was off-ice testing that included a bike ride and a run. Day 2 was on skates. By all accounts, both were tough. Burrows admitted he was feeling it.
“Your legs are just fried after a few laps and you just have to keep pushing and telling your mind to push through it and you’ll be able to get there,” he said. “It’s just a part of making us stronger and better and, hopefully, a sign of good things to come.”
With the Canucks’ core remaining pretty much intact, it is the coaching staff that is mostly different. Tortorella will be aided chiefly by Mike Sullivan and Glen Gulutzan. Goalie coach Rollie Melanson and video coach Darryl Williams are the returnees.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Burrows, 32. “Obviously we were disappointed with the last two playoff rounds the last two years. Management felt it was a good thing to change the coaches. There is a new voice and a new leader in the locker room. So it should be interesting and it should be a lot of fun.
“I’m just taking it all in. I just want to win games and whatever he says and thinks is best for the team, I’ll listen and I’ll do.”
Burrows is aware that the new coach might take him off the Henrik Sedin line to audition the hulking Zack Kassian there. He’s already played on every line during his time with the Canucks, from fourth-liner to agitating-checking winger to first-line goal scorer.
If he is redeployed elsewhere, he’ll likely wind up alongside old pal Ryan Kesler. It was only a few seasons ago that Burrows and Kesler were among the biggest shift disturbers in the NHL.
“For me, Hank and Kess are two great centremen and it won’t change my job,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to win the Stanley Cup. If the coaching staff feels Zack Kassian is better suited to play with the twins, I’m fine with that.”
Burrows also insisted his new and lucrative contract that kicks in this season won’t change him either. He broke into the league a minimum-wage East Coast League refugee ($450,00) and his new deal calls for $18 million over the next four years. His cap hit is $4.5 million but his real wage for 2013-14 is $6 million.
Nice cabbage for a player who was never drafted into the NHL and skated for the Greenville Grrrowl, Baton Rouge Kingfish and Columbia Inferno on his way up.
“I still remember playing in the Coast and making 300 bucks week,” Burrows said. “I worked hard at playing the game I love and tried to win games back then. That hasn’t changed. I still want to win games. I don’t really think about the contract. I know maybe you guys are probably going to talk about it a little bit more but, for me, it doesn’t change a whole lot.
“When I step on the ice, it’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about producing and being consistent and helping the team win games.”
It’s what Tortorella is thinking about, as well.
“As far as forechecking and puck protection, I think Burrows is one of the better ones on the team,” said the coach. “I think he’s a guy who will kind of lead the way as far as bringing more of that into our game. So I’m anxious to get to know him. I know the will is there.”
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