As Canucks management publicly challenges players, Jannik Hansen offers wisdom on handling it and how to sell the stars on change
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
4 months ago
When Jannik Hansen made his weekly appearance on Sportsnet 650 on Tuesday, he recalled a time in his career when former general manager Mike Gillis had challenged his players like current President of Hockey Ops Jim Rutherford did earlier this week. But the former Canuck noted a crucial difference between the two scenarios.
“I only recall one time and it wasn’t public. The entire team was lined up one after another, we had our little meeting with Mike Gillis, but it wasn’t public in any way. It was kept under wraps,” Hansen said.
“I only remember that one time in my 11-year career, I was also fortunate to be on some very good teams for a long time so it wasn’t the same. We had lost a couple of games and weren’t happy. But never publicly in the way that we’ve just seen here.”
The contrast between those moments is stark, but so is the gravity of their situations. The current Canucks have a 4-6-3 record and are well aware that if management makes the call to fire coach Bruce Boudreau, roster moves will come with it. Hansen believes the players have to take responsibility for the team’s start as much as the coaching staff.
“Sooner or later you’ve got to point the finger at yourself. It’s the players on the ice that are going to have to win the game at the end,” Hansen said.
“When you’re on the ice, it’s your responsibility to win that battle with whoever it is you’re lined up against. In this league, the parity is so close that you should be able to win every night. It’s a matter of finding a way to win enough games.”
But Hansen isn’t unaware of the team’s likely trajectory and knows that being a player on the cusp of a team firesale can be extremely difficult.
“It sucks as a player when you start hearing this because we’re at the end of the line. GM gets canned, coaches get canned,” Hansen said. “But again, it’s never fun because things are going the wrong way. And one of the things those players don’t like is making changes.”
“We have families as well. The security, the comfort of knowing where you live, work, sleep, play, eat, all these things. It’s nice to know. So when things aren’t going well, you’re in this kind of limbo. ‘Am I out the door? Is the coach out the door? The new guy coming in, what’s he going to do? Is he going to play me the same way? Am I gonna get the ice time, linemates, all these things?’ So it’s never fun to be around when these things are creeping in.”
And yet Hansen understands there’s no putting the rebuild toothpaste back in the tube, and he recently talked about the Canucks’ desperate need for one. Yesterday, he offered his advice to management on how to sell it to the star players they’d be building around; specifically, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko.
“You call Demmer, Petey and Quinn into the office and say, ‘hey, listen, this is what we’re doing, this team can’t win the Stanley Cup, we believe you guys can with the proper guys around you. It’s going to be a hard two, three, four years, but you will reap the reward,’ and then you’ll go from there,” Hansen said. “They’re professional enough to know that this isn’t going well enough.”
“I’m assuming they’re the type of people who want to win and they’re not here just to have a good time, make some money and play in the NHL. They’ll understand.”
Hansen also believes that once the stars get a real taste of the Vancouver playoff atmosphere in April, they’ll never want to give it up. Hansen played on seven Canucks’ playoff squads over a nine-season span and experienced the benefit of playing on a regular Cup contender first-hand, as opposed to a team just scraping in.
“They had a sniff of the playoffs in the bubble, but there were no fans so these guys haven’t really experienced what that’s all about. Once you do, you can’t get enough of it, you want to get right back to it,” Hansen said. “They’ll understand, and I think I would understand it too. If Jim comes up on the TV and tomorrow says ‘hey, listen, we’re gonna blow this up and it’s gonna be three hard years,’ fair enough.”
Hansen also left Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin with a friendly reminder of what kind of commitment a rebuild entails.
“You have to find a direction, then stick with it and do it 100%. It can’t be ‘okay, we can fix it on the fly for 10 games’ and then maybe not. Get a clear-cut approach and then do it.”
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