Canucks, Vancouver lucky to have Sedins, hometown discount or not
Securing services of splendid Swedes until 2018 key for franchise’s future
VANCOUVER — It’s probably not a stretch to surmise that one of the things the Vancouver Canucks were eager to learn, when GM Mike Gillis interviewed candidates for the head coaching job over the summer, was what outsiders thought of the team.
No one knows exactly what opinion the successful applicant gave, though we can guess.
But Gillis said Friday that it was John Tortorella’s impassioned confirmation of what the Canucks already believed about Henrik and Daniel Sedin that convinced the club it had to lock up the twins for the foreseeable future.
By signing them to palatable, four-year, $28-million contract extensions that kick in next season (they’ll be 37, going on 38 when the deals expire after the 2017-18 season), Gillis has all but guaranteed that they will finish their careers with the same team that drafted them.
And once again, as they did in their current contracts, the Sedins — who won back-to-back Art Ross Trophies in 2009-10 and ’10-11 (and Henrik the Hart, as well, in the first of those years) — signed for about $3 million per season under the average of the top 10 salaries in the NHL.
Hometown discount? What else would you call it?
“People who know us know that money is a small part of the whole negotiation,” said Henrik. “We’ve always loved it here, our families love it here, and that’s a major thing. To be part of a great team for the next couple of years, that was the most important thing to us.
“If you go UFA (unrestricted free agent), you’re maybe going to get better money somewhere else, but that was never part of the discussion.”
Could the Canucks have done it on some other day, when Pavel Bure wasn’t upstairs at Rogers Arena waxing poetic on the glory of having his number retired here Saturday afternoon, prior to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs?
But as much as the Bure ceremony is about tying up a loose end from the past, securing the services of the splendid Swedes closes what might have been a gaping hole in the club’s future.
Every quality the Canucks have or hope to have is embodied by the red-headed doppelgangers from Ornskoldsvik, who might actually be those “better people than they are players” you always hear about.
And they’re damned good players.
Tortorella hadn’t been on the job very long before he knew it in his heart.
“Just in the short time I’ve been with them, before they even step on the ice, how they handle themselves ... and with some of the kids we’re hoping come through, to have them here showing the way as far as the process of being a pro, we couldn’t be happier,” said Tortorella, who took the opportunity to get something off his chest about the external perception of the twins.
“You know what bothers me the most about the reputation of these two guys — and I’m not sure who started it, but our league is so neanderthal in their thinking that it sticks — is when they call the Sedins soft,” he said.
“In our league, I think we act like idiots sometimes ... I’ve been dying to talk about that. These aren’t soft people, soft players. I’ve had the honour, in the short time I’ve been with them, to be up close and see how hard they work, and see what they do on the ice. It pisses me off, the reputation that’s still out there, and it’s so undeserved and so disrespectful.
“They play underneath the hash mark, in the tough areas. I just think there’s people pop off who don’t have a clue what they’re saying and then it sticks. You watch how hard they play on the boards, how they protect pucks, you kind of get lost with their skill and you think that’s what they’re about — it is so wrong, because they do so many little things.”
Gillis said the club has been working on the deal for four months, and that the negotiation with agent J.P. Barry “was probably as smooth as it could possibly have been with two players of this kind of profile.
“These two guys are the pillars of our hockey team, incredible people in the community, they give back all the time and set an example for all of us.”
If there was a hurdle, it was trying to figure out what the salary cap would be in years to come and how to leave room, after the Sedins got paid, to surround them with good teammates.
“We want to win, that’s the bottom line,” said Daniel, who entered the weekend 10th in league scoring, three points behind his brother, who was fourth. “You realize as you get older, your chances are getting slimmer and slimmer, so we want to have a good team around us, and I think we do.”
Replacing the twins through free agency, Gillis admitted, “would have been impossible. You’re talking about two players, not one. To try to find two players in free agency that understand what it means to play here in Vancouver and who would work with us to try to maintain a really competitive (supporting cast), it would be impossible.”
There were plenty of smiles in the Canucks’ room.
“People see them on the ice, the give-and-gos, those plays, the skill set they’ve got. But they’re such great persons outside the ice, they work so hard, they’re so likeable. Everybody’s really happy,” said Alex Burrows, who knows as well as anyone how much the Sedins are worth as linemates.
“And one thing great about it is I’ll never be the oldest guy on the team.”
“There’s so many intangibles with the twins,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “Sure, they contribute every game offensively and they’re leaders, but just their calm demeanour, I think, is contagious. It has been for me, and I think also for Burr and ... well, Alex Edler is already pretty calm, borderline sleeping, but guys like Kes (Ryan Kesler). It calms us down, just to see how even-keeled they are throughout a game, and throughout a season.
“It’s changed my approach to the game.”
Until then-GM Brian Burke made the deal that allowed the Canucks to get both brothers in the 1999 entry draft, “we expected to be on different teams,” Henrik said Friday.
“It has always meant a lot to us,” he said, to play together.
“Now we’re sitting here, 13-14 years later, and we’re still on the same team. That’s unheard of, but it says a lot about the organization, too. They’ve done a lot for us, throughout the years. There’s been a lot of times when they could have gone in a different direction, and they didn’t. We’re very fortunate to be here today.”
Vancouver — the city, never mind the team — is lucky to have them.
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