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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson - USA TODAY Sports

The Canucks Aren’t Ready For Life Without the Sedins

It is frustrating how often words fail us when we need them the most.

There are no words that can express what the Sedins have meant to the city of Vancouver over the past 18 years. Language alone cannot do justice to the sense of gratitude Canucks fans feel towards their actions both on and off the ice. What can a person say that hasn’t already been said? The Sedins are the greatest players in the team’s nearly fifty-year history, and they have the hardware to prove it.

And yes, they’re even better people than they are players. Ask almost any fan who’s interacted with them, and they’ll tell you a story encapsulating just how down-to-earth they are. They play pass with little kids. They fly coach. They wait for their table at White Spot, and they’re good tippers.

But these are not the only reasons the Sedins are so beloved in the community. To an outsider, hockey culture can be exhausting. The sport still has a long way to go before it can shed its violent, hyper-masculine, xenophobic past; but it was much worse 20 years ago when the Sedins’ careers were beginning. Everywhere you turned, there was a talking head ready to espouse the virtues of hitting or dropping the gloves. A willingness to get dirty was indicative of character, of hard work. The inferiority of European players was considered self-evident because they didn’t do these things.

Then the lockout came, and the rule changes that followed. The Sedins emerged as elite players, and the Canucks hired a forward-thinking general manager who made a point of pushing the boundaries of a hockey culture I found stuffy and exceedingly dull. It didn’t always work, to say the least, but these new Canucks were creative on the ice and in the front office. The sleep doctors, “capologist,” “mind room,” and goalie captain announced to the hockey world that this team was in no way interested in doing things the old-fashioned way.

So it’s fitting that the faces of this franchise would also be two of the most unique players in history. Players who excelled not because of physical prowess, but by consistently being the smartest guys on the ice. Players who were unique not only in playing style but also in disposition. Who paved the way for a new way of thinking about player toughness, based on an ability to take punishment in the corners rather than dole it out.

Vancouver has such an unbelievably vibrant and creative online community. It’s spawned comics, impressions, podcasts, and parody music videos, and unlike what passes for creative content in other markets, a lot of it is actually good. It’s far from outlandish to suggest this is a reflection of a team that’s been led for the better part of two decades by a pair of players that are frankly, a little weird; but whose weirdness is part of what makes them special players.

The team’s management has come under fire for a number of decisions they’ve made towards the end of the Sedins’ career, but give them full credit for the way they handled the send-off. They absolutely nailed it. The choice to let the twins announce their decision ahead of the their last home game was the right one. The in-arena tributes were touching. And of course, Henrik and Daniel held up their end of the bargain as well, combining for what will go down as one of the most memorable goals in team history.

As somebody who’s watched them for 18 years, I’m not ready for life without the Sedins.

But neither are the Canucks. As I said before, words often fail us; so it only feels appropriate to turn to the numbers, which do an effective job of measuring the Sedins on-ice contributions. Looking back at the decade of shot metrics available, it’s almost comical to see how often the two brothers appear when looking at the best individual seasons by shot shares:

While their play certainly declined in recent years, their shot metrics were still the best among Canucks’ regulars this season. Even in their 37th year, they’ve kept their heads above water by shot attempts on a team that’s otherwise struggled to do so. On the power play, an area in which they’d struggled in prior seasons, they were two of the teams best producers, behind only Brock Boeser.

It’s not absurd to suggest they were the team’s best, most consistent players this season. Now, obviously that has a lot to do with the fact that their other best players missed a significant chunk of the season; but the Sedins have been a massive part of why the team never wholly bottomed out this year. Their defensive play has definitely deteriorated over time, but they’ve still kept the puck mostly at the other end of the ice and been a net positive for the team. When Boeser and Horvat were injured, both Henrik and Daniel stepped up and were far and away the team’s best, most consistent players down the stretch. It’s debatable whether the wins Daniel and Henrik have provided the team will be advantageous in the long run, but they’ve certainly helped a management group that’s emphasized being competitive and doing things “the right way” save face this season.

These are more than just practical concerns that come from the Sedins’ decision to retire. In addition to being on-ice leaders, the twins have also been effective public relations representatives for a team that’s floundered for the last three seasons, absorbing or deflecting criticism away from others. The team’s front office has often used their respect for the Sedins as a get-out-of-jail-free card when the topic of rebuilding is broached.

Perhaps more importantly, they’ve shielded the team’s young players from the unenviable task of explaining losses and poor performances to the media 82 times a year; something they picked up from former captain Markus Naslund, as Michael Blundell of The Players’ Tribune explained:

Whether the Canucks can replace their production remains to be seen, but there’s absolutely no way they’ll be able to replace them as ambassadors immediately. If the team continues to struggle, expect a hangover.

After the love-in of the last two games of the season, most of the focus in the market has been on looking back, as it should be. Because looking ahead, things could get ugly. Though unfairly maligned at times, Vancouver is still a tough market to play in, and the Sedins have shielded others from the intense scrutiny and criticism for over a decade.

Going into next season without the twins, the Canucks find themselves in a lose-lose situation. Unless they can land John Tavares in free agency and get the first overall pick in the draft, they’re likely to be even worse next season. If they chase a couple of big free agents this summer, the idea that the team’s management was putting off a rebuild until Henrik and Daniel had retired will lose all credibility. If they don’t, the team will somehow have to try and replace 100 points from within, which is looking like a long shot at this juncture. Either way, the task of fielding questions from the media will be left either to the team’s future leaders like Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, or veterans that lack a longstanding relationship with the community.

As sad as the next few days are going to be, we’re only scratching the surface of what life without the Sedins is going to look like. I’m not sure we’re ready for it.

  • Killer Marmot

    I’m not so pessimistic.

    The Sedins still have plenty of offensive oomph, but hockey is a two-way game, and they were fast becoming defensive liabilities even given the number of offensive-zone faceoffs they were provided. Seeing them trapped in their own end and run to exhaustion, unable to get off the ice, was not fun.

    The Canucks should not explicitly try to “replace the Sedins’ offense”. Rather they should seek sound two-way players who can skate. Time to move on.

  • North Van Halen

    What? a ‘sky is falling’ article by chicken little??!! Shocking.
    I love the Sedins and will never diminish what they did for this team but there is no way this team is any worse off without them for better or worse. The Sedins were given almost all of the #1 power play time and an abundance of the O zone starts. Their foot speed meant they could never help this team over the hump in the new NHL with speed at a premium.
    With several rookies needing opportunity, $14mil opened up in cap space and the Sedins occupying the spots the rookies need (sheltered minutes w/offensive zone starts) there couldn’t be a better time for the Sedins to move on.
    Much like how the Sedins learned to handle the hard times from Naslund, Boeser & Horvat have done their apprenticeship, now is the time.
    With that said, do I think this team is going to be just as bad next year? Most likely and I have no issue with that. Another high draft pick won’t hurt a team not ready to compete yet (and I don’t care what Lindenning SAY about competing as a 5yr rebuild was always the program). I do think big strides better happen after next year. That will truly be the team that Lindenning built and if the team isn’t moving in the right direction and the building blocks in place for long term success, then that’s entirely on them.
    So bye Sedins and thanks for everything, I think you picked exactly the right time. The real question is whether Benning & Linden make use of the $14mil or use it to bury themselves.

    • Puck Viking

      Use the cap space to acquire bad contracts from other teams for prospects or picks, to sign players to 1 yr deals for the trade deadline or doing nothing with it. This team is years away from filling a hole or 2 via free agency.

  • TD

    The Sedins were great players, but were huge minus players at even strength. I know it’s a flawed stat cause it doesn’t show what was expected, only what happened. I don’t want to be negative about them because they were the best Canucks ever and it will be difficult for anyone to ever replace them because they were the complete package in every aspect.

    If the top players remain healthy, replacing the 105 points shouldn’t be hard. Bo, Brock and Baertschi will all get more points. Two players will get top pp time, which even with a worse pp, should still add up to a bunch of points. Other players will get the favoured zone starts and time which will be some extra points as well. Unfortunately this team needs to do way more than replace 105 points to be competitive.

    I think their leadership and the heat they took off the kids will be harder to be replaced. Maybe it would make sense to have 4 assistants and not name Bo as captain. That way older players can take some of the heat for a year or two until the team is stronger. I do agree that I’m not fully ready for the Sedins to be gone.

  • wojohowitz

    I guess the narrative has changed from `making the playoffs` to `young and exciting`. Everything written over the next few months will be focused on lowering expectations but will management or the fanbase buy in? Is it Benning or Aqulini who wants to sign an aging veteran to a fat contract to raise false hope?

    • DJ_44

      This argument gets really old. The Canucks management has espoused being competitive every night, playing hard, with goal of making the playoffs. Being young and exciting does not diminish the goal of being competitive.

      Strawman after strawman. It is not about lowering expectations, it is about fans understanding what is involved in a rebuild.

      Everyone complains about this being a dismal season. I see it as anything but. It was a filler with key pieces of the future developing.

      As for the Sedins retiring; thank god. This is not disrespectful, it is honest. Hendrik and Daniel were honest with themselves and that does nothing but increase the respect they deserve.

      Jackson comes up with a number of poor arguments about holes to be filled. Leaders will step up, their points will be replaced, and next season will be better than this. Injuries devastated the team, stay healthy and compete, that is what I am looking for.

  • The Canucks should be better next year. While it sucks to lose the Sedins, if we add Gaudette and Pettersson and stay healthy, the team is going to be a heck of a lot faster and dangerous. More ice time for the young guys like Goldobin and Leipsic to make-or-break it.

  • TheRealPB

    I don’t disagree with most of this, though I’d say it’s not as if the Sedins weren’t physical players — their ascension to elite status also had to do with their changing their training and fitness which for the last ten years was second to almost no one on the team; not about face-punching but being really tough as nails. I hadn’t really thought about their media availability, but you’re absolutely right — they, like Naslund, Linden, Luongo towards the later part of his time here and even Ohlund and Bieksa — were always willing to face the microphones and cameras and to shield a lot of younger players who were unprepared to face the heat. This is one of the reasons I also think that the new core has any chance of success because I think Horvat and Boescher are cut from the same cloth and that even guys like Stecher and Markstrom have stepped up. And it’s the same reason I have little time for Gudbranson and Sutter because beyond their underwhelming play on the ice I have never seen them lead in the same sense off of it. Throwing young players like Hutton and Goldobin under the bus is not something to be cheered.

    • Locust

      No one was thrown under the bus.
      Canucks Army made a HUGE deal out of a minor moment because JD has a little purple hate on for Sutter and Guddy.
      If you are basing your opinions on what is written here, you are in trouble. Bigly.

      • TheRealPB

        It was not based on what CA wrote. It was based on comments made in the press by Gudbranson and Sutter. The issue is not whether or not Hutton and Goldobin or Virtanen need a better work ethic or to produce more. It’s that true leaders — in my view — don’t publicly shame their much younger teammates. What would it have been like if Naslund or Ohlund or Linden called out the Sedins for their evening cheesecake habit (an amusing anecdote retold by all involved many years later but it’s instructive to remember that Henrik and Daniel’s ascendence to elite status accompanied their rise to the peak of fitness on the team)? Over the past four years the Sedins have had every chance to rip their teammates — and while they’ve been critical at times of the play and performance, they always include themselves in it, even when they’ve still been producing at the very least at a second line level. I have no time for Gudbranson slagging on Hutton when he himself has played like utter garbage most of the time he’s been here. He’s tough enough to say he’d make someone pay the price for a hit on Boeser when he’s in the press-box but once on the ice he does nothing to either deter a hit on Horvat nor anything to follow up on it. Sutter can talk a big game about Goldobin needing to pick up his game but says nothing about being Mr. Brittle and not worth a penny of his foundational contract over these years. I don’t care for paper tigers and that’s why I look forward to real leadership coming from the much younger core. Even Gagner — who I don’t love as a player — I appreciate much more as a person and as a leader for all of the reasons I can’t really stand Sutter or Gudbranson. It has nothing to do with CA. It has to do with the lack of real leadership they show.

    • North Van Halen

      I could be wrong but didn’t Sutter call out Goldie & Guddy call out Hutton? Haven’t those guys had their wok ethic & professionalism questioned by management? Didn’t Virtanen & McCann have issues? I recall the Sedins making comments about entitlement issues or something thereabouts.
      Was it leadership by them and throwing under the bus by the others or was it a case of veterans getting frustrated with a lack of professionalism and calling it out?

      • Ser Jaime Lannister

        I dont have a problem with Goldy or Hutton being called out…in fact i think it was warranted. Goldy floated for what 75% of his games last season? or someone trying to earn icetime and a roster spot thats ridiculous! As for Hutton same thing, TG is trying to build a culture where Canucks are hard to play against…Hutton was too easy to play against, constantly losing board battles and losing his opponent.

        I hope this next core (Boeser/Horvat/Stetcher) start to challenge more teammates and get the best of them, that is when well see the competitive/winning culture gain traction.

    • Jackson McDonald

      You are absolutely correct, the Sedins were tough and physical but not at all in the way that is usually lionized by the national media.

      They are going to miss having the twins as PR ambassadors, if nothing else.

  • Kootenaydude

    As a guy who has gone to a lot of WHL games. I found that 2004 was the pinnacle. It was a lockout season. Teams were stacked and they played hard. Lots of checks, intensity, skill and fights. It was super entertaining. Unless you follow our team, the game is rather soft and kind of boring now. Unlike this writer. I’m just an old time hockey lover.

  • truthseeker

    From an on ice perspective I was not a fan of the retirement announcement. The loss of those points will and their ability to affect the PP are going to be felt I think. They easily were capable of another 100 points between them and on a lower line with softer competition their defense wouldn’t be an issue. Really I don’t think it’s much of an issue at all anyway. They’ve always been slow players who were prone to getting beat with speed at times. In my opinion it’s no worse than it ever was. It doesn’t matter. What they bring more than balances any of that out.

    Sure some players will simply step into those places where more minutes are given and more beneficial offensive zone time happens, and those players will score more. I do believe that the “line” can make the player, almost as much as a player can make the “line”.

    But having said that, I don’t think there is anyone currently aside from maybe Eriksson, who looks like they could step it up in such a huge way and put down a 50 point season.

    You all are slagging the writer on this, but I think his point is completely valid. A lot of “ifs” have to go right next season for them to do well. More than if the twins were still on the team.

    What I’m hoping is that what the twins gave the young players in the last week of this season, that passion and desire to give it their all, carries over into next season and the team plays the whole year with a better mentality. That may have been the best gift the twins have given to the younger players.

    • Killer Marmot

      But having said that, I don’t think there is anyone currently aside from maybe Eriksson, who looks like they could step it up in such a huge way and put down a 50 point season.

      Except Horvat, Boeser, Pettersson if he lives up to his billing, Baertschi if he stays healthy, Leipsic if he plays like he did this spring…

        • truthseeker

          Yep..it’s certainly possible. It would be nice to see Jake take an offensive step that brings it into line with how he’s seemed to “get” the rest of his game.

          That’s ambitious for Gaudette but again, certainly possible.

          Every season there are surprises and disappointments. Next year will be no different. I just doubt all the ducks will fall into line and all the things that need to go right to replace that kind of production, will go right. I do hope I’m wrong though.

        • truthseeker

          That’s one of the interesting things I’d like to see. Seems like Grandlund (and from what I read in the province, it’s supposedly true) was given a “role” by Green to be a “shut down” guy. It’s not like Grandlund was ever a huge producer. Even in the Finnish league he didn’t exactly light it up. But I would love to see what he could do as a Center with say Pettersson and Leipsic? Make them a “second line”. At least give it a try.

          I guess I just hope Green’s not afraid to blender the lines and sort of backs off this “match up” thing a bit. In my opinion every line should be encouraged to be defensively responsible but also asked to try to produce offense. I think when you give a guy a “shut down role”, especially with players who are used to scoring, it almost hinders them.

        • Killer Marmot

          You said that you didn’t see anyone with the potential to score 50 points. I showed there were tons of possibilities.

          That’s how you run a hockey team. You give yourself as many avenues to succeed as you can, and some — but not all — will happen.

          • truthseeker

            OK…I did mean outside of the B line. (and only two of those are a proven shot at 50) I did fail to specify that but I think it should be obvious as it was our number one line already this year.

            Sorry, but I don’t see a “ton” of possibilities after Brock and Bo. Everyone has “potential”. Gagner has the “potential” for 50 points. It’s not likely though. A lot would have to go right even for Pettersson to get 50. Putting Sven and Leipsic in there too? lol…OK…again….a lot of ifs ifs and more ifs.

          • Killer Marmot

            You want guarantees do you? This is hockey. There aren’t any.

            You got caught making a patently nonsensical statement — namely that Eriksson was the only player who had the potential to put up a 50 point season. Rather than doubling down on a mistake, you would have done better saying “Fine, I might have overreached there.”

          • truthseeker

            Where did I say I wanted guarantees? Strawman much?

            That’s fine. If you want to think I wasn’t giving credit to Bo and Brock for being able to get 50 points after both of them have already done it and you actually need that spelled out for you, fine. Bo and Brock will get 50 points. Next time I’ll be sure to state the obvious.

            And yeah…I think those you mentioned will have a very hard time getting 50 points. Sven was on pace for a 44 point season. Leipsic was a 14 game sample size. And Pettersson’s a rookie. He’s probably got the best chance but still….he has a grand total of zero NHL games.

            Eriksson has five 50 point seasons under his belt. He’s more than capable and is the closest thing to a 50 point player we have after Bo and Brock. And it’s obvious.

          • Killer Marmot

            You asked for guarantees when you said “if, if, if”.

            I repeat: When you make a boneheaded statement like saying Eriksson was the only Canuck with the potential to score 50 points, just back out the statement. Don’t continue digging in the hope of striking oil.

          • truthseeker

            uhh…no….me saying if if if…doesn’t not follow to me expecting guaranteed point production from players….lol. Not sure where your getting that leap from.

            You can repeat it all you want. Doesn’t change the fact you’re declaring a victory for yourself that doesn’t exist.

            What does “I don’t think…” mean to you? Do you understand that phase means I’m stating an opinion? I guess not. So let me explain it to you…when someone says…

            “I don’t think there is anyone aside from Eriksson…”

            that would be my opinion. I suppose your opinion that Sven, and Leipsic are capable of 50 points next year seems pretty boneheaded to me…but hey….you’re entitled to that opinion so I wouldn’t post something like that.

            Now…go ahead…say it again how me not stating Bo and Brock is some huge thing that everyone would fail to understand is a given. lol.

    • North Van Halen

      I don’t argue that some of those points will be hard to replace but if Pettersen & Dahlen are playing this year wouldn’t they be best served getting those offensive zone starts? Won’t Brock, Bo & Sven benefit from more ozone starts? After 12 seasons of seeing Danny & Hank running the #1 pp unit won’t it be nice to see something new (just kidding…not really)??!?!
      The minutes the Sedins need/have earned are best served with the youth now. If they are even worse next year, which I don’t believe unless they trade Tanev, so what?!! They ain’t winning a cup and another high pick won’t hurt.

      • Break The Canuck's Curse

        I think you are right. I think many are underestimating the huge benefits the Sedins were getting, and thus taking, from the rest of the team. The question is, was that the best possible deployment? I think it was but now that they are gone, those benefits can pass to other scorers

      • truthseeker

        lol…yeah…no not really. I’d much rather have the twins on the PP next year. We’re asking a lot of guys like Pettersson and Gaudette to step into PP time as well as simply adjusting to the game. But yeah…if they show they can handle it and do well then throw more at them. I definitely don’t want them to baby their prospects.

        I don’t necessarily have a problem with another bad year if that’s what naturally happens, but I still think playoffs should be the goal every single season. Or in other words, a clear focus on showing improvement. If that means we finish slightly out of the playoffs then so be it.

      • Ser Jaime Lannister

        Ill argue its going to be great seeing two new faces on the PP. Hank never played that half-wall position properly, he was too stationary and was reluctant too shoot which made it easier for defenders anticipating where he was going too pass. The player on the half-wall needs too be able to shoot from that spot which will draw more defenders too you and open up slots for passes.

        I can see EP playing that half-wall slot better than Hank, you have too be able to shoot it from their when a lane opens up or a screen ensues, which EP is capable of doing. Exciting times ahead cant wait!

    • TD

      The PP may take a hit from the 9th or 10th ranking it was last year, but it will help the Canucks improve quicker moving forward. The new players will develop and learn with the opportunity. If the Sedins were back next year, the kids wouldn’t get the opportunity and would lose that development. As much as I love the Sedins, they are not part of the future for this club and they have to move on to let the kids have the opportunity.

  • Beer Can Boyd

    2 37 year old guys who struggled to hit 50 points, even though they got all of the power play time, and most of the O zone starts. I’ll miss the Sedins as players and ambassadors, but this article is ridiculous.

  • Rayman

    yeah . It’ll be horrible for a few yrs….and if JB spends cash on some stupid Free agents, another few yrs of pain.

    hope we can get some great drafts in next few yrs.