TORONTO — Ask Daniel Sedin to assess the National Hockey League careers of he and his brother, and he is merciless.
“We haven’t won,” he said. “If you want to look back and say you had a great career, you’ve got to win the Stanley Cup.”
Henrik is more diplomatic: “Played with great teams, still haven’t been able to win. But still trying,” he said. “We were close to winning [in 2011.] That’s the only thing we’re missing.”
The two quiet Swedes, whose presence in Vancouver marks former Canucks general manager Brian Burke’s greatest bit of wheeling and dealing, have aged well, with each on the precipice of their 1,000th NHL point. (Henrik requires 30 more points, while Daniel sits at 942 career points.)
It’s not their fault they are still the best two forwards on Vancouver’s roster. Though as the late Pat Quinn used to say, it is their problem.
“That’s what we want, for guys to push us. Maybe force us to be a second line. That’s the only way you can succeed as a team,” said Henrik, who recalls pushing past the West Coast Express line of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison earlier in his and Daniel’s career. “No one would be happier if that happened than us.”
Daniel, however, adds this proviso: “If guys are going to take our ice time, they’re going to have to be really good,” he warns. “We’ve been the top line for a few years. If someone wants to take [that job,] they’re going to have to fight for it.”
The Sedins have come to this World Cup of Hockey unsure whether this will be their final international appointment for Sweden. But whether or not NHLers follow Alex Ovechkin to Pyeongchang two winters from now — or if the Sedins will still be playing in four years when the next World Cup rolls around — the sun is slowly setting on hockey’s most unique duo.
Twin brothers drafted second (Daniel) and third (Henrik) overall in 1999, who will never play an NHL game on separate teams.
But does that mean they will never play a game for a team other than Vancouver Canucks?
“If we’re going to win,” Henrik declares, “we’re going to win in Vancouver. That’s the only option. But who knows? We’re not going to stay if we can’t help the team, or if they don’t want us. Who knows what happens?”
There are two years left on their current contracts, and the Sedins are steadfast that there is one more contract in their future. You can’t trade one of them — they have trade protection in their matching deals — and with a combined cap hit of $14 million, Canucks GM Jim Benning probably couldn’t find a taker for the aging Sedins as a package.
We would be entirely shocked if the Sedins’ contracts demands caused the Canucks to let them walk away two seasons from now, but they turn 36 on Sept. 26. Down the road, it is conceivable that two expensive 38-year-olds might not work for the Canucks.
“If they don’t want us there, then we’ve got to make a decision,” Henrik reasoned. “We’re not going to retire because we don’t want to play for another team.”
We know that every piece of equipment in their dressing room stalls is identical, and that their on-ice communication is unique to hockey — an extraordinary, wordless language compared by some to dolphin speak. But when you talk first with Daniel, then to Henrik, a few more fraternal nuances become clear.
Not only do they speak for each other willingly — you’ll never get a “I don’t know what Henrik thinks,” or “I can’t speak for Daniel,” — but they flow in and out of the collective pronoun. “I” turns to “we,” which turns back in “I” again.
Like when I asked Henrik if he is the type of Swedish NHLer who will return to the homeland when his career is over, the way Nicklas Lidstrom did.
“If you’d have asked us 10 years ago,” he said, “I would have said we would move back. Ask me now, and I think we’re leaning towards staying in Vancouver. We’ve been there now 17 years almost, and we were in Sweden for 18 years.”
Nearly half their lifetime spent cycling the puck and producing at a nearly identical clip for the Canucks, they have become as Canadian as they were Swedish.
Daniel, who has averaged 0.824 points per game in his career, says they don’t pay attention to the fact that Henrik (0.832) and he score so similarly. Henrik’s eye light up however, when it is mentioned. “I am a little bit better, right?!”
Daniel wins at ping pong, but despite having identical handicaps, Henrik says Daniel has beaten him only twice in their lives at golf. “He could be up six holes with seven to go, if we play match play, and I would still beat him,” Henrik beams. And that’s the most you’ll ever hear a Sedin boast.
They share everything, in a way never before seen in the NHL — including a lasting belief that their Canucks are not as far from a Stanley Cup as the hockey world believes.
“A lot of people think we’re years away,” Henrik said. “We’re not that far away.”
“Vancouver — we are heading up again, I think,” adds Daniel. “In today’s NHL, one or two young players come in and can help, it can change everything.”
That was said once before in Vancouver, and it was two Swedish twins who literally “changed everything.” It may happen again, but never quite like this.
Swedish twins. If you’re real lucky, they’ll come along just once.