VANCOUVER – This disappointment feels different to Henrik Sedin.
As the Vancouver Canucks met the media on Monday to reflect on a second spring in three years without playoff hockey, their captain tried to point to the positives of what was a frustrating campaign.
Sedin, who along with twin brother Daniel will be 36 when the puck drops next season, made it clear he remains committed to club’s plan to rebuild by infusing youth into the lineup.
“We all realize we need to get younger before we get better,” said Henrik Sedin. “The difference this year from maybe two years ago is now we’re on the way up again. Two years ago … I thought as a team we were on the way down. Now we’ve got pieces.”
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Those pieces include rookie forwards Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, first-year defenceman Ben Hutton and second-year centre Bo Horvat. They saw significant ice time, especially when injuries started to decimate the lineup.
But Sedin also cautioned that those young players need veteran support, and that making the playoffs should remain the goal moving forward.
“It’s dangerous to just keep going year after year and thinking about getting a high draft pick,” he said. “We’ve seen other teams not being successful doing that. We have pieces, but now we have to surround them with good players.”
Brandon Sutter, Dan Hamhuis, Alexander Edler and Luca Sbisa — just to name a few — all went down with injuries for a team that wound up finishing 28th in the overall standings with a record of 31-38-13.
“We knew it was going to be tough before the season started,” said Daniel Sedin. “With the injuries it got even tougher, but we saw improvement in the young guys.
“It was exciting to watch.”
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Like his captain, Sutter said the season wasn’t a total loss for the franchise.
“We’re a team that has a good core of players that have been around a while that can play … we’re still in a good spot,” said Sutter, who played just 20 games in his first season with the club thanks to a sports hernia and a broken jaw. “It was a tough year, you can’t really hide that. A year that nobody planned for, nobody wanted, but there were some positives to take out of it.”
With just 75 points — 26 fewer than 2015-16 — the Canucks had their worst season since 1998-99 when they earned just 58 points.
“We had a pretty good season last year,” said No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller, who will turn 36 in July and is entering the final year of his contract. “We were hoping to carry it forward this year. It was a pretty big shock for us to not be as competitive as we had hoped.”
Meanwhile, Henrik Sedin said that head coach Willie Desjardins was “absolutely” the right person to lead the club next season. Both Desjardins and general manager Jim Benning will address the media on Tuesday.
“There’s never been a question about that from this team,” said Sedin. “He’s really good to work with.”
The Canucks enter the off-season with a number of questions marks, including the futures of Hamhuis and Alexandre Burrows.
Hamhuis, 33, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Burrows, who turned 35 on Monday, is a candidate to have the final year of his contract bought out.
“I’d love to be back. Love this city, love this team,” said Burrows. “They want to establish a younger core, but I still feel like I can be an asset and help these guys out.”
Sedin reiterated numerous times on Monday he believes in management’s plan, adding the improvement he saw this year — despite the tumble down the standings — gives him hope.
“It’s hard to lose, no question about that,” he said. “I’m totally confident we’re going to be in a better spot next year. Before we’re done I’m confident we’re going to have another run at it. That’s the way we look at it.”
Note: The Canucks have five players heading to the world hockey championships in Russia. Hutton and fellow defenceman Christopher Tanev will suit up for Canada, while goalie Jacob Markstrom (Sweden), defenceman Yannick Weber (Switzerland) and forward Jannik Hansen (Denmark) have committed to play for their countries.