Kevin Bieksa has 11 NHL seasons under his belt, and over that period of time the 35-year-old blueliner has seen a change in the way he prepares for an upcoming campaign.
“Just the way the NHL has evolved the last few years, it’s going toward a faster game and a more skilled game,” the Anaheim Ducks defenseman noted during a Tuesday appearance on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “There’s not as many confrontations in the corners or in front of the net. When I first came into the league, there was a lot of big guys on the ice and a lot of them couldn’t move. So you wanted to be bigger, heavier, bulkier, stronger. And now it’s more about being explosive and quick and able to do that.
“So if you want to stay in this league and you want to be a good player in this league, you have to be quick. You don’t necessarily have to be light, but my training has definitely evolved and it’s more explosive. A lot of Olympic lifts. A lot of interval sprints and things like that… that’s the way the game has evolved.”
The Ducks will have their first preseason game on Tuesday, September 27 at home against the Arizona Coyotes.
“Our team is going to be competitive again this year,” said Bieksa. “We seemed to have a competitive team for the last few years and it’s tough because it’s such a tough division and it’s such a tough conference that you just have to put yourself in the playoff picture. And then as you saw last year, we fly into the playoffs and were arguably the best team in the second half of the season, and we play Nashville – who is also a great team – and they beat us in seven. Some would call that an upset, but I thought it was a pretty evenly-matched series.
“There’s a lot of good teams in the West, so you have to set yourself up. You have to get ahead in the standings and then you have to play your best hockey coming down the playoffs.
“We have a very similar team. We’ve got a good blend of young guys that are going to play key roles, and then some veteran guys that are going to have some leadership roles and carry the load.
“It’s tough to forecast things ahead of time. I think people that forecast right now are just kind of closing their eyes and pinning the tail on the donkey. You don’t know who’s going to emerge here this year. It’s going to be close. There’s probably 16 teams that could win the Stanley Cup.”
Part of Bieksa’s recent off-season activities have included watching the Olympics with his family, appreciating what the athletes are able to do with the world watching.
“Yeah, that’s the thing. They work so hard for four years just to get a small opportunity to get on the big stage,” said Bieksa. Sometimes it goes well and they do great, and other times it doesn’t. It’s pretty sad and heartbreaking when you see somebody fall, like on the hurdles or something, when they’ve been working for four years. They get one race, and then they kind of blow it.
“It’s fun to watch. I think there was the one race yesterday where the American fell along with the New Zealand girl, then they kind of helped each other up and crossed the line. That’s the kind of thing – that’s what it’s all about. That kind of brings a tear to your eye.”
A little later in the interview, Bieksa was light-heartedly asked why he doesn’t help an opponent up when he bowls them over in the corner.
The veteran rearguard, known for his sense of humor, did not disappointment with his answer.
“Because I don’t like anybody,” joked Bieksa. “(Laughs) You know what? I think I owe Alex Burrows a couple of sticks to the face here too. Every game we played the Canucks last year I got a stick to the face from Alex. I’m due. I’ve got to get him back.”
Take a number, right?
“The thing is, he’s so sloppy and clumsy that I can’t even get that mad at him because he’s just careless out there.”
Source: TSN 1040/ Transcript: Nichols