Canucks core near tipping point, know time to win it all is now
Kevin Bieksa ‘doesn’t do windows,’ but others realize theirs in Vancouver is closing
Vancouver Canucks blueliners Jason Garrison and Kevin Bieksa (right) skate during a team practice in Vancouver on Tuesday April 30, 2013. The Vancouver Canucks host the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final series on Wednesday.
Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — It is window season again in Vancouver.
If the Canucks’ marketing department were on its toes, it would have a major sponsorship deal with Jeld-Wen, or Pella. Surely Bill Gates would do Windows commercials on the big scoreboard, maybe even own the team. He could probably afford it.
Window season is every spring for the last two or three — that time of year when the Vancouver Canucks’ core group is reminded of its advancing years and advised to win the Stanley Cup now, before the prime of Henrik and Daniel Sedin has expired and the good times follow these magical twins over the far side of the hill and the window of opportunity slams shut on everyone’s fingers.
There are those in the room who would rather not discuss it.
Kevin Bieksa, for one, like some recalcitrant janitor, says, in effect: “I don’t do windows.”
For one thing, it’s too far in the future, he said Tuesday, when what really needs to be looked after is Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks Wednesday (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1040), and then Game 2, and eventually trying to get through the first round — and then, maybe, we’ll talk about windows.
And of course, he’s right.
“I think last year we kind of overlooked our first-round opponent a little bit — not too much, but just enough,” said the most indispensable piece of the Canucks’ defence. “And I think we’re not making that mistake this year.”
The Sedins, though, are not bashful about addressing age. Neither is coach Alain Vigneault.
Much is at stake for the Canucks in these playoffs. They all know it, perhaps none more so than the twins, although Vigneault is keenly aware of how quickly regular-season success — even years of it, on end — can be forgotten in the fevered aftermath of an early playoff exit.
Asked Tuesday if there is any such thing as wanting it more this year than last year or the year before or the year before that, the coach said:
“I believe so. I think guys are smart. We’re all getting a little older, and I think they understand that they’ve been working for this moment, for this opportunity, for a long time.
“They’re excited, they’re highly motivated, and they understand about the window. We’re in our window. And the will to get it done, in my opinion, is going to be real high. And they’re going to go out and be in the moment (Wednesday) night and work real hard to get it done.”
It is not as though the nucleus is approaching the Geritol years, although one question to Daniel about reaching his mid-30s prompted a round of chuckles and an “I’m almost 40!” retort from Henrik’s little bro.
(For the record, they’re 32. Both of them.)
“It’s always been about the Stanley Cup, that’s what people don’t understand. You’re no one in this league if you haven’t won,” said Daniel. “That’s always been our goal (but) lately we’ve had the teams to do it.
“Management has believed in us. That’s what they’ve been telling us all along. We want to prove that they’ve chosen the right people.
“You never know with injuries and the salary cap situation what team you’re going to have in here from year to year. We know we might be down to our last few chances. But our team is as good as it was two years ago, we’re looking forward to this opportunity.”
“We talk about it pretty much every day,” said Henrik. “You look at team pictures from our first years, or when Burr (Alex Burrows) came in and Juice (Bieksa) and other guys ... and now you look at pictures, or go to Christmas parties, and we all have kids — we’ve been here a long time, and it’s old home for us. It’s special that way. It means we’ve done something good, but we have one more thing to accomplish together.”
Those old photos of the twins as rosy-cheeked cherubs are hilarious now, given the chiseled features of today and the accumulated mileage that’s evident in their eyes.
“I think the only message you can give to young guys that are here now and maybe getting their first taste of playoffs is that you can’t take this for granted,” Henrik said. “They might think ‘I’m 21-22 years old and this is going to happen every year’ but I’ve been here 12 years now and there’s very few years where you go into the playoffs feeling you have a great chance of winning it all, and you’ve got to take advantage of that when it happens.
“You’re going to be in more playoffs, but it’s not every year you’re in a group that’s been together a long time, with two great goalies, one of the best D groups in the league and has some offensive talent. So you have to make something out of it.”
Individually, Henrik said, the window is open longer. But for he and Daniel, for Ryan Kesler, 28, and Bieksa, 31, and Burrows, 32, and Roberto Luongo, 34, and Dan Hamhuis, 30, and even Alex Edler and Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen, all 27, there is perhaps another level of want.
“For us, this core group, we have a chance to be front-line players winning the Cup,” said the captain. “We might have guys that move on and go to other teams and might win a Cup here or there, but they might not have a chance to be the front-line players, and that’s where you want to be.
“We’ve been fortunate to have great teams here. But until you win it all, people are going to look back at this team like every other team that had good players but didn’t win (the Cup).
“When we first came in, Ottawa had a great group of players and they didn’t take the chance when they had it, and a few years later, they’re rebuilding and they’re not close to where they were.”
The core guys know they are approaching that kind of tipping point, where it becomes impossible economically, or impractical, performance-wise, to keep the whole gang together.
“They want to win,” said Vigneault. “There is no other thing.”
The window is closing. Each opportunity lost could be the last.
So if wanting it more is a possibility, now is the time.
No pane, no gain.
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