This Week in Media Transcripts: Virtanen, Higgins, and Henrik Sedin Check In

You know the hockey season is near when three NHL players appear on the radio within the span of just a few days. The off-season is a time for players to lay low in the media as they go through their daily training and rehabilitation routines. With the NHL’s training camps just a few weeks away, NHLers have returned to their respective cities or signed Professional Try Outs. After a long hiatus of Canucks player interviews, Jake Virtanen, Chris Higgins, and Henrik Sedin spoke with TSN 1040 this week to talk all things hockey.

Jake Virtanen will be heading to Whistler’s training camp with somewhat of a spotlight shining on him. Having been called out in the past for his professionalism, he will have much to prove that he belongs in the big league, despite his young age of 20. The product of Abbotsford, BC has spent his off-season at Rogers Arena, and he told TSN 1040 that he has been training Monday to Friday all summer. Being monitored constantly by Canucks staff and management should give Canucks fans optimism that he will meet, or even exceed, both on and off-ice expectations. Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have been candid in saying that they have not ruled out the possibility of sending Virtanen to Utica, but the 6th overall pick does not plan on that happening.

Jake Virtanen: “I learned a lot throughout my first year, there were off-ice things and on-ice things. The first year is about learning to be a pro and I think I did that. Last year was the biggest learning experience of my career. This year, I want to put up more points and score more goals. I also want to be a team guy and a leader on this team eventually. You have to start young and mature your game on and off the ice and that’s what I’m trying to do. My body [composition] has been pretty good this off-season, so I want to keep building off that.”

Virtanen on potentially playing in Utica: “I’m not trying to worry about that. I don’t want to be anywhere except Vancouver. I don’t have my mind set on anything else. It’s going to be a good camp and you have to earn your spot. It’s my spot to lose.”

Canucks captain Henrik Sedin is back in Vancouver after his spending his summer in Ornskoldsvik, as he and his brother do every year. The two, along with Jacob Markstrom and new Canuck Loui Eriksson, will be missing training camp as they represent Sweden at the World Cup. Turning 36 in a few weeks, it can be safe to say that the Sedin twins are true NHL veterans. Despite the ups and downs of the past few seasons, both remain positive and hopeful that Jim Benning has put together a playoff-contending team. The potential line combination of Sedin-Sedin-Eriksson will most definitely be exciting to watch, especially when both Sedins are inching towards the 1,000 career points milestone. 

Henrik Sedin on Loui Eriksson: “We know each other from before, we played together at the World Championships. He’s a great player, I think he’s very underrated around the league. He might not be the flashiest guy, so that’s something the fans have to get used to. He’s one of those smart guys that, if you know hockey, you can tell he’s very valuable to your team.” 

Henrik Sedin on the upcoming season: “With Gudbranson coming in, our back end looks deeper. It’s the same story as last year. We need our young guys to take another step, we need to stay healthy this year. We’re not as deep as other teams, but if you stay healthy, you have all the chances in the world to make the playoffs. It was the same for last year but we couldn’t stay healthy and that was the problem. The young guys getting better and staying healthy are the two keys for us.” 

Henrik Sedin on Anton Rodin: “I know him from a few years ago at training camp, and he was here in May and June working out with us. I’ve been here all week and I’ve been around him. If you’re the MVP in the Swedish league, that means you’re a really good player. That doesn’t necessarily translate into being a top producer in the NHL, but it gives you a good chance of getting there. With the confidence he has this time around, knowing he was the best player in the Swedish league, I think it will be a very good fit for him on this team. I talked to a lot of guys in my hometown who played against him and he was dominant. He ran the power play, he played a lot, he was counted on to produce. For him to have that confidence coming over here, it’s going to be a big difference from last time around.” 

Last but not least, after having his contract bought out by the Canucks, Chris Higgins signed a Professional Try Out with the Calgary Flames this week. To refresh your memory, Mike Gillis acquired him at the 2010-2011 season’s trade deadline in exchange for Evan Oberg and a 3rd-round pick. He collected 8 points in 25 games during the playoffs en route to the notorious Game 7, and went on to multiple contract extensions. It was during that time when he discovered his love for the city, thus making it a permanent home and calling it “the best city in North America, that I’ve been to.” Higgins is one of the many PTO players who are fighting to keep their place in the NHL, another being former Canuck Brandon Prust who will be attending Toronto’s training camp. Personally, I wish for nothing but the best for Higgins and I hope that he finds success with Calgary.

Chris Higgins on signing a PTO with Calgary: “Looking at their line-up, they need older guys with experience. I’ve always approached training camp as a try-out – if you’re not a good enough player, you’re going to be off the team. I’ve talked to Glenn Gulutzan quite often this summer. When I found out things weren’t working out in Vancouver, I was contacted by him. I’ve always had a great relationship with him as well as Paul Jerrard from working with him in Utica. The familiarity certainly plays a part (in choosing Calgary) as well as location. My daughter is going to be staying in Vancouver so it’s only an hour flight away. I was only interested in teams close to the area. There were a couple teams in the east that were interested, but if the only opportunity were in the east, I’d give it a shot. My daughter has changed my world quite a bit so that was a big selling point for me.”

As part of Calgary’s PTO press release, Higgins gave his final thoughts as he concluded his time as a Vancouver Canuck. In his six seasons with the Canucks, he appeared in 336 regular season games and 40 in the playoffs. His highest point total with the team was in 2011-12 when he put up 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 71 games. At 33 years old, Higgins is looking to prove to Calgary that he can still play in the NHL and be an asset to their young team.

Higgins on Vancouver: “I don’t hold any grudges. I didn’t play well. Maybe I didn’t see going down to the minors as an option, but it’ll be a funny story to look at in a couple years, with a lot of parts in my career. I think everybody knows how I feel about Vancouver. I plan on spending a lot of time here when I retire. I love the city and the people here. Vancouver will always be in my future. There is no bitterness whatsoever.”

Sources

TSN 1040 – Virtanen, Higgins, Henrik Sedin

Calgary Flames

    • Andy

      Agreed. It’s the most mature article I’ve seen in a bit from this blog. I guess that shouldn’t be a shock since most of the other bloggers are 20 year old guys.

  • wojohowitz

    I kind of thought the twins had spent some time in Vancouver over the last couple of months attending media and/or charity events rather than spending the whole summer in Sweden.

    Maybe I have under estimated Ericksson`s worth as just another Vrbata looking for a contract although I still don`t like the 6X6 he received. Could he possibly be the 35-40 goal scorer the Canucks really need?.

    Rodin`s contribution has to be questionable. The only thing that will heal a torn tendon is time – not exercise or therapy.

    Virtanen should spend a couple of months in Utica and his spot given to Grenier or Zalewski. There`s no point in having these guys in the system if they don`t have a future. Give them a chance to play or cut them loose.

    • wojohowitz

      You should leave the concerns of rehab to the professionals. The injury was months ago. It’s not like we are talking about a fractured bone femur here. Lacerations and ruptured tendon healing can be expited using many different modalities that I guarantee the Canucks staff have access too.
      Eriksson hasn’t had an issue putting up the points. To add to it he now gets to play with a pair of the best playmakers in the game. He’ll be fine.

      • Andy

        Ironically enough, bones tend to heal exceptionally well in comparison to dislocated joints, lacerated tendons and the like.

        That said, it’ll be a combination of both factors (Time and Therapy). Bieksa’s Achilles recovery gives a hint as to recovery expectations/reality. It may be as short as 2 months, he may not feel 100% until 2017.

        we will see.

    • Vanoxy

      I agree about Virtanen starting in Utica.

      We need to use his waiver exempt status to see what we have in guys like Grenier, Etem, Zalewski, Granlund, who are subject to waivers.

      Audition the bubble guys, and if they don’t stack up then cut ’em loose outright, or risk losing them via waivers on their way to Utica.

      Jake will be here for the long term, the guys I mentioned are 50/50 at best. No need to rush him this year, and risk losing other prospects for nothing.

      Jake will be back by Christmas, either due to cuts or injuries.

      • wojohowitz

        “Jake will be back by Christmas, either due to cuts or injuries.”

        I think this is the bottom line.

        Like you say, see what the other guys can bring.

        Maybe another team has an injury and we have a body we can move for a pick instead of losing them on waivers.

        But. I am sure management wants to win really bad now. Get off to a good start and sell tickets.

        It will be fun to watch it unfold.

        I keep looking at Grenier with his size. If he worked on his skating in the summer he could surprise and make the club. That would be a great problem to have, figuring out who stays, waived, traded because guys have a good camp.

      • TheRealPB

        I don’t really see the point of using the waiver-wire status as a determinant for who stays or goes in the case of a top flight prospect. A more marginal one sure — but Grenier and Zalewski are three or four tiers below Virtanen and at least two below Etem and Granlund.

        If Virtanen is really going to be relegated to a fourth line role then I agree he should be in Utica getting prime minutes and responsibilities. However if he really has been training as solidly this summer as is being reported and has a bit more of a sense of what it takes to be a pro, I think he’d be a really solid fit on a sheltered third line with Horvat and Baertschi, a real opportunity for the three of them to see if they can push the offense. If you can have the Sedins and Eriksson pushing play as a mid-range first line, Sutter with Hansen and Burrows as a legitimate shutdown second line with a bit of offensive pop, and Granlund, Dorsett and Etem and a good fourth line you can trust with a decent number of minutes, then I think Virtanen is much better off in the NHL. If Rodin seriously outplays Virtanen or one of the other wingers and pushes him down to the fourth line then I’d consider sending him to the AHL.

        I think Rodin is the real wild-card here. He could easily supplant Burrows or Etem I would think; doesn’t bring the toughness or versatility of Dorsett (who is a better bottom six fit than Rodin). I think Burrows and Etem will rotate in the 13th spot. Zalewski was lucky to earn an AHL contract and an NHL re-up last year and Grenier is running out of time. I don’t see the need to sacrifice the development of Virtanen or the better options at the NHL level on seeing who they are; we kind of know at this point.

  • LTFan

    I’ve said many times that JV should spend some time in Utica. However it sounds as if he is determined to be on the Canucks on opening night. I hope he is successful.

    Chris Higgins. A classy guy and I hope he catches on with another team.

    I am still left wondering why the Canucks didn’t give Dan Hanhuis a contract. Another classy player during his time with the Canucks and he would have helped the team. Some moves by management are puzzling.

    Another good article Vanessa, would like to see more articles from you this season.

    • LTFan

      Oddly enough, the D has a pile of candidates. The question is will the lower pairing guys be any good?

      I think if Benning dealt Sbisa and any other D man then Hamhuis would’ve been back. As it stands there are too many bodies that are on the roster and need waivers to get to Utica.

      I’m guessing the D will be:

      Edler/Tanev

      Hutton/Gudbranson

      Sbisa/Tryamkin

      Pedan/Biega

      Subban may surprise but he’s still developing so who knows.

      I do like the physical edge and hope Tryamkin and Pedan can play.

  • Whackanuck

    Screw Hamhuis. All we heard was hiw HE loved Vancouver, how HIS
    family was settled, how HE liked his church. And yes, he welcomed rookies and did charity work. Then a few stock quotes on the Canucks. He pooched the Canucks with his NMC restriction. None of that gains the Canucks a single point.

    I know, trash away, but he won’t be missed long and turnover is inevitable and healthy.

  • Bob Long

    I don’t think putting Virtanen in Utica because he’s waiver safe is a good reason to put him there. If he’s ready to start contributing as a high 1st round pick then why would you put him in Utica? We know Grenier or Mike Z isn’t going to be in the top 6 so I’d rather see them sit someone like Granlund in the press box if we’re desperate to see if one of these guys can crack the bottom 6.

    It sounds like Jake’s matured mentally and physically, and if WD keeps him off the 4th line it should be fun to watch him find his offensive game.

    Also with the Sedin’s and Erikkson not being at camp, its going to be a very competitive training camp – the cream will rise to the top for sure with those 3 playing in the World Cup of BS and giving us a longer look at other guys.

  • Bob Long

    Vanessa Jang, my new favorite Canucks writer here on CA.

    Oddly, Vanessa’s initials are and J. If you flip that backwards it’s J.V. ..same as Jeff Vellete.

    And what do the two have in common? Both have a certain woman’s reproductive organ although it looks a heck of alot better on Vanessa than Jeff.

  • Mattchu

    Let me make something crystal clear.

    This past season, 28% of Canuck goals were scored by players under the age of 23. In other words, 52 of 186 goals (Horvat: 16, Baertschi: 15, McCann: 9, Virtanen, 7, Others: 5).

    During the 1983-84 season (a season during which the Canucks actually made the playoffs), 49% of Canuck goals were scored by players under the age of 23. In other words, 149 of 306 goals (Tanti: 45, Sundstrom: 38, Lanz: 18, Neely: 16, Lemay: 12, Belland: 7, Petit: 6, Others: 7).

    The Canucks subsequently missed the playoffs in 1985, got swept in 3 quick games in 1986 by the Oilers, missed the playoffs in 1987, and missed the playoffs in 1988. It wouldn’t be until almost a decade later that the Canucks would win a playoff round, in 1992. None of those ’83-’84 “young guns” were still with the team by then.

    The point is two-fold:

    1) As much as everyone likes to say the Canucks “went young” this year, the fact is, empirically, they really didn’t.

    2) The Canucks are in for a long, long, long road ahead of them. By the time they are any good again, it is very likely Virtanen, Hutton, McCann, etc. will be long gone.

  • EddyC

    Has anyone noticed that there is always at least 1 trash for every comment?
    Hmmm can you say that the same person does that every day? I expect at least one trash because I don’t think he reads the comments

  • Bob Long

    virtanen is not going to utica. he’s been working out every day at canuck inc. he’ learned his lesson for liking the biebs, and he might get some 4th-line shifts, but everything else, like utica, is just a threat to tell him to keep his feet moving

  • TheRealPB

    For those who think that Calgary has done a good job of retooling just think a minute Higgins, and Vey are our cast offs if they break the Calgary lineup, and I hope they do as don’t wish any ill will on them, that shows that the Flames are not as deep as one thinks.
    If they make the team all the asset manager critics will be screaming why did we give them up, simple they just weren’t working here as a fit.

    • Dirty30

      3 Canucks had new kids last season — Burrows, Higgins and Vrbata. Name 3 players whose performance tanked.

      Higgins old contract was an issue — this year he can be had cheap, is professional, can mentor and do a lot of things to sustain a team.

      We may see bounce-back seasons from Higgins, Vrby and Burrows.

      Vey had different father issues than the other three and sadly his dad got three years for his actions. Hopefully Vey can move on as well.

      He didn’t just have problems with family, but getting picked by Coach and then favoured by Coach, particularly when it was obvious he just wasn’t performing, was not a smart move by WD regardless of his reasons and intent.

      Maybe lower expectations for Vey in Calgary will mean less disappointment for everyone.

  • Whackanuck

    the last person who would favour signing a player who got more ice time than he deserved due to unduly favourable treatment from a head coach would be an assistant coach who witnessed it firsthand.

    so it’s interesting that vey is still called willie’s darling even when calgary immediately signed him after gulatzen went over there. commonly held opinions here seem to become “truths” even when evidence emerges to the contrary.

    • Dirty30

      Vey didn’t cost Calgary anything but a contract. He cost Vancouver the second round pick from trading away Garrison.

      Vey may have to compete for a roster spot so he’s not a sure lock in Calgary as he was his first season in Vancouver.

      How Vey is deployed in Calgary may be based on Gulatzen’s critical evaluation of Vey’s potential contribution to that team. WD seemed to have rose-coloured glasses from Coaching Vey in Junior, and did deploy him in situations where he lost face-offs, lost puck possessions, was brushed aside by opposing players, and tried to be fancy when he should have been doing anything else.

      Vey may be very successful deployed differently in Calgary and may even have his own Bonino breakout season.

      That doesn’t erase the fact that WD did give Vey a lot of chances a lot of other players on the team could only have dreamed about.

  • Whackanuck

    @dirty30

    vey is not damaged goods in calgary and also carries no expectations. so i think he might be able to carve out a good career as the utility infielder he is, and even be a fan favourite doing it.

    but i don’t agree wd played favourites with vey. vey to me is a guy who can play any line adequately but is never your preferred choice to do it. he can cover an injury or even earn a spot on a weak team, but you’d always be looking to upgrade. i think wd played vey a lot because wd has needed to fill holes a lot!

  • Mattchu

    Vanessa, if you ever read these comments please take this one to heart…

    Please write for CA a lot more often!

    These are the kind of articles I want to read and have actual interest in. Just learning real things about the team and certain players in this format is always a fun read.