“We love the guy”: Bieksa and Sedins told Canucks to keep Tortorella

Former Vancouver Canucks and current Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella is a controversial figure around the NHL. He’s brash and outspoken, qualities that can sometimes rub people the wrong way.

There were lots of memorable moments during the coach’s tenure with the Canucks, but few had to do with on-ice success. The team went 36-35-11 during Tortorella’s lone season in the Western Conference, finishing fifth in the Pacific Division.

Despite the less-than-stellar results, the coach’s style and attitude were popular with some key members of the team — namely Kevin Bieksa and the Sedin Twins.

“I’m a huge Torts fan. I only had the one year with him, he signed a five-year deal, but after the one year, they ended up letting him go,” said the Canucks defenceman about his former head coach on a recent episode of the Nasty Knuckles podcast.

While the Canucks made the decision to move on after a single season, that wouldn’t have been Bieksa’s preference. As the defenceman explained, he and the Sedin Twins were consulted and told the team to keep Tortorella.

“I remember they brought a bunch of us into the GM’s office after the season; they asked us, ‘What do you think of Torts?’ I was one of the guys, me and the Sedins, signed off on him like ‘we love the guy, we want him back,’” recounted Bieksa about the situation. “Is he hard and demanding? Yeah. Does he call guys out in the media? Yeah. But I mean he’s a guy, he tries to get the most out of you and at times maybe his methods are a little bit extreme as you’ve seen in the past week or so, but the goal is to get you to play your best hockey.”

The coach has been in the news recently for some public criticism of his team to the media. The Flyers have been sliding down the standings and are in danger of missing the playoffs.

“He was a tough coach, really tough training camps, the toughest and just kept you accountable. The good part was everybody was at the same level, it wasn’t like star players can make three, four, five mistakes before they get called out. Everyone was at the same level,” continued Bieksa about his former coach. “Best motivational speeches before the game, as you can imagine, so big Torts fan.”

Tortorella has gotten some more negative press this season with the Flyers as he benched captain Sean Couturier. It was a controversial decision that drew some raised eyebrows.

“He wants them to be all-in and care and try. Yeah, his methods are sometimes a little different, but they work most of the time,” said Bieksa.

While the tough defenceman enjoyed playing under Tortorella, he admits it’s not for everyone.

“Some guys, it just doesn’t work. I can remember one guy on our team he just didn’t respond to that type of confrontation,” conceded the Canucks legend. “He says first day you have to have skin to play this game. You do have to have thick skin to endure him over the course of the year… The guys that don’t they usually end up getting moved.”