PENTICTON, B.C. – Henrik Sedin will settle for less personally this NHL season if it means more for the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks centre raised the bar last year by winning the NHL scoring race with a 112 points and captured the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Sedin knows the expectations will be even higher this season for both him and the team. Entering his 10th year with the club, it’s a load he’s willing to carry.
“If I have 85 points and we win our (conference) I’m extremely happy,” said Sedin, who had 29 goals and 83 assists last season, both career highs. “If I have 85 points and we finish third, I’m extremely disappointed.
“I know it’s going to be a lot of pressure from outside, from fans. There will be a lot of talk if I’m not producing on a high level like I did last year. That is something we have dealt with before. It’s not a problem.”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault would rather Sedin concentrate on the process, not the end result.
“It’s just a matter of continuing to get better every day,” Vigneault said Saturday after the Canucks opened training camp at the South Okanagan Events Centre. “That’s what a player’s focus has to be.
“It can’t be on June. It can’t be on the month ahead. It has to be on today.”
Sedin was in the first group of players to step onto the ice at the 5,200-seat arena. A crowd of around 2,500 greeted the players with applause and chants of “Looooo” for goaltender Roberto Luongo.
For new defenceman Dan Hamhuis, a Smithers, B.C. native who played the first five years of his career in Nashville, it was a taste of how popular the Canucks are.
“It’s neat to be part of something like this,” he said. “It’s great to see the province-wide support the Canucks get.”
Vigneault was pleased with the opening day of camp.
“I liked our work ethic and our attention to detail,” said Vigneault. “The guys came to work.
“Our vets showed the example and everybody else followed the lead.”
Henrik, 29, and his twin brother Daniel are a 1-2 punch that can bruise any team. The brothers know they will receive extra attention this year from the opposition’s top-checking lines.
“I always expect the worse, then I go from there,” said Henrik. “I’m not going to change the way I feel before a game or the way I think the other team is going to handle our line or me or Daniel.
“We have shown we are resilient It’s just another step for us. We have shown we can play. Now it’s about winning. That’s our goal for the next couple of years.”
The Canucks are a team that has failed to turn regular-season success into a long playoff run. Vancouver has won its division three times in the last four years but lost to Chicago in the second-round of the playoffs the last two years.
To address problems on defence, general manager Mike Gillis traded for Keith Ballard and signed Hamhuis as a free agent. To add more grit, Gillis signed free agents Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres.
Some analysts have already picked the Canucks to win the first Stanley Cup in their 40-year history.
Daniel Sedin said it’s time the Canucks lived up to expectations.
“We have the team to do it,” said the left-winger who managed career highs last year of 56 assists and 85 points despite missing 18 games with a broken foot.
“It’s always difficult to get points in this league. Everyone knows when they play us you are going to play a tough team and a good team. If teams are afraid to play us, that’s good. It should be fun.”
The Swedish twins are not the biggest players on the ice, or the most physical. What makes them unique is always being able to know where the other is.
“They know the game really well,” said Hamhuis, who faced the brothers as a Predator. “They find grey areas that are very hard to defend and they do things you are not expecting out there.
“When you try to move them, they are pretty solid on their skates. They’re not easy to throw around. First of all, it’s hard to get contact on them. They see it coming before you get to them. When you do, they are solid guys.”
The Sedins will start the season without linemate Alex Burrows, who scored a career-high 35 goals last season. Burrows is out until at least November recovering from shoulder surgery.
“He’s going to be missed,” said Henrik. “I think guys are going to step in.”
Mikael Samuelsson, who had a career-high 30 goals last year, is expected to replace Burrows on the top line.
When the Canucks drafted the Sedins in 1999, Henrik was the setup artist while Daniel was the trigger man. On the ice, Daniel was more flashy. In the dressing room he talked more.
When Daniel was hurt last year, many people thought Henrik’s game would suffer. Instead, Henrik showed he had a scoring touch to go with his ability to feather a pass.
Henrik has also matured off the ice. He’s become more talkative with reporters, insightful about the game. He also has a sense of humour.
Henrik said he hasn’t allowed Daniel to touch his Hart and Art Ross trophies because he’d have to win his own.
Last year the Canucks made Henrik an assistant captain. With goaltender Roberto Luongo giving up the captaincy this season, many people expect Henrik to get the “C” before the season starts.
For Henrik, the road from quiet rookie to team leader has followed a natural progression.
“We’ve been here a long time,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from our first couple of years.
“We’ve lived in this city. We know the pressure from fans and media. I think we have learned to deal with it. This year has to be about winning. That’s the bottom line.”