Captain Henrik liked Tortorella's system until injuries sunk it

 

 
 
 
 
Even when professional athletes attempt to block out the distractions, the distractions still seem to find them.
 

Even when professional athletes attempt to block out the distractions, the distractions still seem to find them.

Photograph by: Christian Petersen, Getty Images files

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Even when professional athletes attempt to block out the distractions, the distractions still seem to find them.

So there was Vancouver Canuck captain Henrik Sedin on Thursday night, standing in the pouring rain at son Valter's soccer practice, getting an earful about GM Mike Gillis's controversial 'line-in-the-sand' radio interview earlier that day.

“I'm aware of the interview, not from listening to it but from second-hand,” Henrik said following Friday's practice at Rogers Arena. “There were a lot of questions.”

Presumably, those questions came from soccer parents. On Friday, there were plenty more from Vancouver media members, all trying to prod Henrik for a reaction to the Gillis proclamation the Canucks would return to their successful puck-possession style of seasons past. Or else.

Said Gillis, in case you missed it: “If people don’t want to get on-side with how I view this team and how it’s supposed to play, then they won’t be here. Just like six years ago.”

Many interpreted that as a shot across the bow, or between the shoulder blades, of beleaguered head coach John Tortorella. The Canucks sat 10th Friday in the Western Conference with a week remaining in their season. They are all but officially punted from the playoff picture. They ranked 28th Friday in goals scored and 27th on the power play.

The numbers are wretched but, according to Henrik, the Canucks were playing a puck possession game, and rather successfully, until Christmas.

“I think my reaction is it's a tough season to talk about because it's a lot of different parts,” explained Henrik, who expects to play Saturday against the L.A. Kings after missing four games with a knee injury. “Again, if you go back and look at our puck possession game up until Christmas, we were outshooting teams and playing well defensively and getting chances. We weren't scoring maybe, and our power play wasn't good enough, but we certainly played well as a team.

“We had many nights when we were out-shooting teams 40-or-45-to-25 and we were sitting here talking about the other team's goalie after every game.”

Injuries have become a major talking point in the Canucks' second-half demise as the team began losing with regularity Dec. 30, blowing a late lead to the Philadelphia Flyers and eventually falling 4-3 in a shootout. Roberto Luongo, Alex Edler, Alex Burrows and Ryan Stanton were players out of the lineup that night.

The injuries then continued virtually non-stop with Henrik, brother Daniel, Mike Santorelli, Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, Ryan Kesler and Brad Richardson among those all missing time in the second half. Henrik admitted the Canucks began to lose their aggressive attitude, which led to a further decline in offence and a further increase in losses.

“I think a lot of times when you have a team that goes through injuries, and you see it in a lot of teams, you have to somehow maybe change the way you play a little bit,” Henrik said. “So you can't be that aggressive kind of team because you need to be able to read things on the ice and, when you have a lot of new guys in the lineup, maybe you sit back a little bit more. So, yeah, I think that happened.

“I think we bought into that because that was something (we felt) needed to happen. You've got a lot of new faces playing more minutes than they're used to, and when you're playing that many minutes, it's tough to be that aggressive. So instead you kind of sit back a little bit and you're caught in between. I think it got away from us playing the way we need to play. ”

Defenceman Kevin Bieksa, another senior member of the core group, stickhandled around the topic when asked if the Canucks should return to their up-tempo puck-possession system, successful under ex-coach Alain Vigneault, but changed by Tortorella.

“We play a different style and I don't know if it's the right style or the wrong style,” he responded. “We had success with it earlier in the season. We were on track, playing well, so that's debatable. That's up to everyone to argue. But I don't think it matters so much what style of hockey you play, it's a matter of getting the job done.

“We had a lot of close games early in the season that we should have won, a lot of blown leads. Does that have anything to do with the system? I don't think so. At the end of the day,we just didn't get results regardless of what system we played.”

ICE CHIPS: North Vancouver's Martin Jones, the Kings' backup netminder, will not get the start in his hometown Saturday as Jonathan Quick is scheduled to go against the Canucks... Canadian Olympic defenceman Drew Doughty, banged up Thursday in the Kings' 2-1 loss in San Jose, “could play” Saturday, according to L.A. head coach Darryl Sutter... Canuck right winger Zack Kassian has as many points, 26, as Kings' captain Dustin Brown.

epap@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Even when professional athletes attempt to block out the distractions, the distractions still seem to find them.
 

Even when professional athletes attempt to block out the distractions, the distractions still seem to find them.

Photograph by: Christian Petersen, Getty Images files

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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