Captain Hank set to make history
layer who's continued to prove critics wrong closing in on franchise record
CANUCKS GAME DAY
7 p.m., Rogers Arena, TSN, TEAM 1040
Too slow. Too soft. Too Swedish.
You name it and the labels stuck like gum to Henrik and Daniel Sedin for far too long. Now that Henrik is on the cusp of passing countryman Markus Naslund as the franchise career points leader - the Vancouver Canucks captain is one shy of the 756 points standard - those labels have been shed like outdated clothing.
And if not for a foot injury sustained by Daniel in 2009, the 32-yearold telepathic twins would be doing what they've done in their 12 seasons, chasing each other to make it a points podium for the Swedish trio from Ornskoldsvik.
While Henrik has also been the consummate captain to handle the heat in a hockey-mad market, there's another side to his demeanour that has endured him even more to his teammates.
"He's actually got a pretty good sense of humour," defenceman Kevin Bieksa said in advance of Tuesday's clash with the Minnesota Wild.
"He actually likes to chirp a little bit, but he does it quietly. He usually lets people do it for him - he'll say it in my ear and I'll just throw it out there - or he'll say it to Danny and he'll throw it out there. Or maybe they're chirping me and I'm just the target.
"They like to have fun but you want your leaders to be the most accountable guys. Hank is going to shoulder the blame - even when it isn't his fault - because that's the kind of guy he is. That's what makes us so strong, the example we have in front of us.
"When I came into the league, Hank and Danny still weren't the players they wanted to be and there was a lot of pressure on them. But even after every year in the playoffs when people would write that they can't per-form, they would work their butts off and come back stronger."
The ultimate compliment for any athlete is to make those around him better. And while the artistry and symmetry between the Sed-ins is legendary, so is that long list of wingers who have benefited from their talent.
Those who lasted more than a dozen games on the top line include Trent Klatt, Todd Bertuzzi, Trevor Linden, Jason King, Magnus Arveds-son, Anson Carter, Taylor Pyatt, Naslund, Alex Burrows, Pavol Demi-tra, Steve Bernier and Mikael Samuelsson. In shorter studies there was Wade Brookbank, Donald Brashear, Jeff Cowan and now Jannick Hansen and Zack Kassian.
"They've made a lot of people a lot of money," chuckled Bieksa.
"I could easily put up 20 goals playing there."
The goal for Henrik has always been to put the team first. His Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy following 29 goals and 112 points in 2009-10 - in which Daniel missed 18 games with a foot fracture and Henrik responded with seven goals in a seven-game span - should have silenced the critics forever. And because Henrik is uncomfortable speaking of personal accomplishments, he knew passing Naslund would be significant but it wouldn't be a priority.
"I don't think my wife (Johanna) knows about it," joked Henrik, who has eight assists in 11 games this season. "I've just been focusing on getting better and that's just my mindset. Not scoring my first goal Saturday was my biggest disappointment and I'm just going to focus on keeping Danny behind me."
Henrik has methodically passed Stan Smyl, Linden and Naslund in his franchise points ascent without losing perspective.
He has stood as a voice of reason in the room and a leader on the ice.
Not that it was easy. "Five or six years ago, that would have been out of the question," admitted Henrik.
"The last couple of years, we've really shown what kind of players we could be. But it feels a little odd. Trevor is the mayor of the city and we know how big Markus was and we've got to know Stan. It's a strange feeling to come over at 19. Every day we woke up and wanted to go back to Sweden. Now, we enjoy every minute here and seeing our kids grow up. It's nice to be in a position where you really enjoy both your homes. A lot of guys play where they are and want to get out of there."
With another year left on their contracts, the Sedins will take a year-by-year approach to prolonging their careers. The performance numbers speak for themselves but the numbing Game 7 loss in the 2011 Stanley Cup final remains.
"We're not guys where you see that our conditioning is going to fall off," stressed Henrik.
"I'm hoping for a few more (seasons)." Whether it's his career durability and an iron-man streak that will hit 593 games Tues-day, being honoured as the league MVP or getting the Canucks to within a victory of their first league championship, Henrik said persistence has meant more than other accolades. From fresh-faced kids at the 1999 draft to wily veterans, it's been quite the journey.
"It's tough to pinpoint one thing - it's just getting through those first few years and getting over the hump where you start to feel better about yourself," he added.
For Daniel, it's the manner in which he and his brother were raised which has allowed the twins to take the cheering the jeering in stride. They were taught to treat teammates and people with respect and living a good life with $6.1 million US annual salaries and comforts that are lost on most, is not lost on the Sedins. Linden and Naslund helped guide the early way because they weren't immune from criticism either.
"For us, we didn't even know there was a newspaper," recalled Daniel. "We heard other people talking about what was being said and it kind of helped. I'm happy we went through it. It made us stronger and we know how to handle it because it's going to happen every year and sometimes pretty often in this market."
THE FAB FIVE
Franchise leaders in points for the Canucks
© Copyright (c) The Province
Henrik Sedin, shown celebrating a win over the Oilers recently, has compiled 755 points. He's just one point behind Markus Naslund. The all-star Swede looks to pass his countryman as the franchise's points leader, perhaps tonight vs. the Wild.
Photograph by: The Canadian Press Files, The Province