Daniel and Henrik Sedin have always preferred the slow-and-steady build-up over rushing things. On the ice, that resulted in precision passing plays and long, dominant puck possession shifts, all a lot of hard work intended to make the final act — actually putting the puck in the net — as easy as possible.
As the twins step into front office roles, they’re likely to take the same approach.
The Canucks hired the Sedins as special advisors to the general manager on Tuesday, a role designed to help them learn the off-ice side of hockey while providing a sounding board for GM Jim Benning. They’re not rushing into a decision-making role — they’re looking to build up their abilities in a slow-and-steady fashion.
“We're coming in as rookies. Old rookies,” said Daniel. “But we want to come in and learn all aspects of this side of the business. We're just excited to be back with the organization. We worked with so many great people throughout the years, great teammates, coaches, management, so we're excited to be back and we're coming in with wide eyes and we'll learn.”
“They're gonna be involved in all the different aspects of what we do,” said Benning. “That's team building, talking about the types of players we want, what we want the team to look like, they'll be part of our pro scouting meetings heading into the expansion draft here, be part of our free agent meetings when we talk about free agents or adding players to our group... They're passionate about wanting to do this.”
"We care a lot about this team."
One question worth asking is why now? Why did the Sedins, who are set up well financially from their hockey careers and have families to take care of, decide to take on this new challenge?
“Our only answer is that we care about this team,” said Henrik. “We said after we were done playing that this is a side of the game where I think we can help. We've taken our time and we care a lot about this team, so to be able to come back and help is a great feeling...We're hoping to come in and do a good job and try to stay in the background as much as possible.”
The team that they care so much about has fallen on hard times over the past year. The 2020-21 season was a disaster from start to finish, partly due to factors outside of the Canucks’ control. Now they face a difficult off-season with their two biggest stars needing new contracts and a tight salary cap situation that will require some savvy moves to make enough cap space to improve the team.
After several years spent excising differing voices from the Canucks’ front office — from Laurence Gilman, to Trevor Linden, to Judd Brackett — it can only help the Canucks to add two new voices to the mix, even if those voices sound very similar to each other. The twins were quick to point out that they don’t always agree.
“There's parts — aspects — where we might not agree,” said Henrik, “and I think that's what you need in a good organization is a lot of discussion and a lot of feedback from different people.”
“I think teammates playing with us, especially linemates, I think they've seen us go back and forth quite a bit on the bench,” said Daniel with a smile. “I think we demand a lot from each other and sometimes you're gonna have disagreements, but for the most part you have a discussion and then you move on.”
"If you don't have the right culture...you'll never be successful."
The Sedins made it clear that they’re just stepping into this new role and will need to take time to fully assess where the team is at from an inside perspective rather than from a distance. The aspect they focused on the most in this first press conference was on what they can bring from their experience playing for the best team in Canucks history. Like a yogurt factory, there was a lot of talk about culture.
“I think number one, to create a winning organization is that you create the right culture, and that's something that we intuitively did when we played and what we had on good teams,” said Henrik. “It starts with your top players. You come in in the best shape you can, you train the right way, you do the right things in practice, and you lead the way on the ice when it comes to games.
“From there, it's gonna trickle down. The young guys that come into the team, they're going to see that and they're going to start doing the right things right away.”
For Daniel, culture is the one aspect of hockey that will always apply, even as the rest of the game evolves.
“Hockey's changing, for sure,” he said. “I think players are getting better, they're getting stronger. I keep coming back to the culture — I think you can have as good a team as you want, if you don't have the right culture and the right mindset in the locker room, you'll never be successful. I think that's the number one thing.”
“I think you see it's a faster game,” he added. “It's a more skilled game, so we would not have a chance in this league at the moment.”
Certainly, some fans would prefer the Sedins to be on the ice over some of the bottom-six forwards iced by the Canucks in recent years, but they also said they haven’t even been in skates since they retired. Any dreams of the Sedins stepping out of the front office and onto the ice should be permanently shelved.
"It's fairly easy to build a good team."
While the Sedins are well-versed in setting an example on the ice and in the room, they won’t be able to do so on the managerial side. That has a lot more to do with bringing in the right players to build a winning roster, all while negotiating the salary cap.
Henrik suggested that building a winning team might not be all that hard.
“When you talk about contracts and successful teams and salaries in this era, I think it's very easy,” said Henrik, before stopping himself and scoffing at his own word choice. “It's fairly easy to build a good team and that's if every player can outplay their own contract.”
It’s an overly-simplified way of looking at it, which Henrik himself acknowledged when he scoffed at the word “easy,” but it’s also dead-on. One of the issues over the past years under Benning is that far too many players haven’t been able to live up to their contracts. That’s not necessarily on the players — it’s up to management to sign players to contracts that will provide the team with excellent value in the future.
Instead, too often players have been overpaid based on past accomplishments that they were unlikely to match and definitely unlikely to outperform.
"The core group here is fantastic."
Of course, the Sedins won’t be signing players to contracts any time soon. For now, they’re focused on the smaller picture.
“You can talk about players here and there and who to bring in, but we want to try to help the young guys here in the core group take the next step and become even better, so that's what we're excited for,” said Henrik.
Benning suggested that the Sedins could mentor the team’s young players — he specified their young Swedish players, but there’s no reason to limit how they can help. While Elias Pettersson was never able to play with the Sedins on the ice, the older Swedes can surely help him out in their new roles, as well as the rest of the team’s core.
“I think the core group here is fantastic. So much skill, fun to watch,” said Daniel. “I think with any young core group, they need to take steps every year, like we needed to when we were young. That's kind of the only way your team will get better is if they take those steps.”
"We didn't want to just come in because of our names."
According to Henrik, the Sedins’ new role took some negotiation. They didn’t want to step into too large a role too early, but also didn’t want to just be a public relations move.
“We had some really good discussions back and forth,” said Henrik. “We don't take this lightly. We didn't want to just come in because of our names. And also, we're rookies. We don't want to come in and take a role that we don't believe that we can help, so those are all part of the discussion. And it took some time to figure out exactly the role but we're happy with where we are right now.”
It’s going to be a wide-ranging and challenging role. Mentoring young players and speaking about building a winning culture like they had in their best years, that will come naturally. Everything else will be a learning experience.
“The business side and how things are run to make trades or before the draft, or working with the scouts and how amateur scouting is working and pro scouting and sitting down with those guys,” said Henrik. “That is the part of the business that we have never been around, so that's going to be the toughest and also maybe the most exciting part.”
So, expect the Sedins to cycle in the front office for a while, slowly working their way into the job, weaving together all the components of a winning team. Eventually, if all goes well, making a run for the Stanley Cup will be like tapping in a perfect Sedin pass.