As a whirlwind of change has whipped around the Vancouver Canucks organization in the last couple of years, one constant has remained: the twin faces of the franchises.
Bring in a new president, a new GM, and a new coach or two. Never stop replacing parts of the goaltending tandem. Trade core forwards and proven defencemen. But Daniel and Henrik Sedin will remain, work ethic and smiles firmly intact.
Critics, both those with keyboards and those with season’s tickets, have been skeptical of general manager Jim Benning’s moves this summer, but captain Henrik sees opportunity where others see a downgrade. They’re ready to prove you wrong, that the rebuild-on-the-fly can actually fly. Even if that means opening training camp on a line with Ronalds Kenins.
In a pair of separate but consecutive one-on-one interviews, we chatted with the brothers about Vancouver’s new kids, “winning” a silver medal, geothermal spas, and Daniel’s fear of the Ferris wheel.
SPORTSNET.CA: What do you make of the Canucks’ off-season?
HENRIK: It’s been a lot of craziness. That’s always going to happen when you trade away popular players. We knew there would be changes with new management coming in last year, and that’s happened.
I really am excited about the young guys coming in. They showed last year they can play. They took Utica to the [American Hockey League] finals. That shows you have good prospects. In 2015 it’s easier for young guys to come in and make an impact right away than when we came in, because everybody is so ready physically. Mentally, I believe, they are more ready than 10, 15 years ago. If they can take the steps that are necessary, it shouldn’t take too long until we’re competitive again.
Think of some of the core members who have left. Kevin Bieksa, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler — all gone. Does that make you take a step back and think, OK, how do we fit in with the young guys?
HENRIK: You think about that every year. For me, and I know for Daniel too, we come in every year knowing we have to prove something. We can’t just sit and look at how old we are, or what we’ve done in the past, or where we are on the team. We want to be first line. We want to be point producers. We want to help the team win. It doesn’t matter if we’re 24 or 35, we’re coming in the best shape we can be. If we show we can play like we did last year, it’ll make the team better and allow [management] to make decisions, and it’s going to be good for our young guys — to show them what they need to do as a professional.
The feeling is the Pacific Division got stronger this summer. The Oilers and Sharks both made significant additions. On paper, have the Canucks taken a step back?
HENRIK: Yeah, on paper. But that does not matter. Especially with the younger guys, because they bring so much excitement. People look at our team and see [Bo] Horvat, [Brendan] Gaunce, [Jared] McCann, [Jake] Virtanen—but they haven’t really seen them play. Like I said, it’s easier for those guys to make an impact today. It feels like the Western Conference has gotten better around us for the last six or seven years. A lot of people didn’t believe in us last year, and they don’t believe in us this year. We just have to prove them wrong.
“We can’t just sit and look at how old we are, or what we’ve done in the past,” says Henrik. “We want to be first line. We want to be point producers.”
How do you compare Willie Desjardins’ style to that of other coaches you’ve had?
HENRIK: Every coach has a system he wants to run. They try to get through to players in different ways. Willie is very approachable and easy to talk to, but that’s been the case with other coaches. [John] Tortorella was approachable and easy to talk to. AV [Alain Vigneault], same way. They run different systems, but deep down they’re the same: they want their players to do their thing. For me, it’s really important to have someone to talk to, someone that trusts his players, and Willie is that.
What did you do this summer?
DANIEL: It was bad weather, 16 or 17 degrees, in Sweden, but it didn’t rain much. We have a great setup by the ocean so we never leave the house. The kids have their cousins as neighbours. They’re the same age, so they play all day. It’s a good setup.
HENRIK: Just spending time with the kids. That’s all I ask for. They’re excited to go back to school. They have a lot of friends there.
How were you as a student?
HENRIK: I was OK. A little better than average. I was really good up until high school, then hockey took up a lot of time.
“I can’t even go on the swings anymore with my kids. I get sick.” — Daniel Sedin
So what was the funnest thing that happened to you guys this summer?
DANIEL: I went to Iceland. It’s always been a dream trip. We were only there for four days. Reykjavik.
All light all the time?
All light. We went whale watching. We went to see the Blue Lagoon. It’s a big, giant pool heated by the earth. It was packed. There must’ve been almost 1,000 people there. Went to see some waterfalls. It was nice.
Is hockey in the back of your mind during vacation, or can you tune it right out?
DANIEL: No. Summertime—nothing. I work out, and that’s it.
Do you get on the ice?
DANIEL: No. Not until mid-August.
When you were a young rookie, were you skating through the summer?
DANIEL: No. Never. You gotta get away. I know a lot of guys skate through the summer, but for me, mentally, I need to step back.
What’s your favourite road city?
DANIEL: Oh, I like Chicago. New York, too.
HENRIK: Chicago. Beautiful city, great hockey city. It’s always fun to play in the rink – that’s what makes a good road city. You enjoy playing there and the city itself is fantastic.
The rivalry must play into your love for Chicago.
HENRIK: Absolutely. We played against them when they weren’t that good, in the early 2000s. And the last five, six, seven years it’s been special with the playoff history.
Compare the nastiness with the Canucks-Blackhawks rivalry to the one you have with the Kings.
HENRIK: They’re the same. L.A. came up after the Chicago rivalry, but I like L.A. as well. [The dressing room] is a little bit on edge, knowing there is so much hype around those games from the media and the fans. You know there’s more focus on the game. It makes it similar to a playoff game.
Ever been on the Ferris wheel in Chicago?
DANIEL: No. Scared of heights.
DANIEL: Not terribly scared of heights, but I would never do that.
Roller coasters… anything?
DANIEL: I used to do them, but now I get sick. I can’t even go on the swings anymore with my kids. I get sick.
Like, mellow swings at a playground?
DANIEL: Yeah. I never noticed before, but the last couple years it makes me feel weird.
A year from now, you’ll be back here in Toronto for the World Cup. What’s your take on the tournament’s return?
HENRIK: It’s going to be fun. It’s tough for those tournaments because I don’t get excited until I’m there. We have a long season ahead of us, and this is what we need to focus on. It’s like the Olympics, but it’s even more special now because it’s here [in Toronto] and everything is going to revolve around hockey. At the Olympics, there’s all sorts of other sports and events and you’re in a different country where hockey might not be the main thing.
Henrik, you were hurt, unfortunately, but for Team Sweden in Sochi, did it feel like winning silver or losing gold?
HENRIK: The feeling in Sweden was still like winning a silver. We had a lot of injuries [Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen among them], and I don’t think people believed they could go all the way to the finals. Playing Canada was just…. Watching the game, it was not even a game. They were too good. I think it was like winning a silver.
If Sweden can win the 2016 World Cup, is that suitable revenge, or does the World Cup not hold the same prestige as the Olympics?
HENRIK: It’s almost as big. Maybe bigger. It’s still one of those tournaments that won’t happen every year, and the best players will be there. For sure it’s up with the Olympics.
(credit an assist to Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford, who asked the Ferris wheel question)