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Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra (27) congratulates goalie Cory Schneider (35) after their game against the San Jose Sharks in an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 10, 2011. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Paul Sakuma

Henrik Sedin said there have been three big closed-door meeting amongst Vancouver Canucks players this season, but he concedes many mini-meetings have also taken place en route to becoming the NHL's top dog.

The most recent clear-the-air session came on March 3, prior to a 3-0 home-ice loss to the Nashville Predators, and just before the Canucks set out on this 4-0 road trip, which concludes in Calgary on Saturday. If there's one achievement for Sedin in his first year as team captain, it has been fostering an atmosphere of accountability in the dressing room.

"You're not going to win until you have a group that can criticize each other and communicate," Sedin said. "And that's what we're doing."

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Head coach Alain Vigneault said he has never had a collection of players take so much ownership of the team's performance, nor communicate with each other as frequently as the Canucks do. That first part is the wish of any coach, and it is often cited around successful teams such as the NFL's New England Patriots during their run of three Super Bowls in four years.

"I don't think I've had more or less [communication with the players than in previous years] but I think they've had more [communication]between themselves," he said. "These guys right now are definitely taking the onus, and taking charge, and keeping each other accountable. They do it real well, obviously."

The Canucks first players' meeting took place in November, after an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the arch-nemesis Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena. Sedin couldn't remember - or wouldn't disclose - when the second one took place, but he was adamant they've helped the Canucks climb to the top of the NHL standings.

"You need it sometimes," he said. "You need to sit down, refocus, and get all the guys together. It's a long season, and sometimes you start to drift away. The focus isn't there, and I think that's what happened with us during that stretch [last month]where we won one and lost one. And that's what happened earlier in the season, too, when we were winning games but not playing very well."

One of the reasons why the meetings have worked so well is that Vancouver's core group of players have been together for many years, and are both familiar and comfortable with each other's personalities.

Sedin said that the collective age of the Canucks roster has also helped. Other than rookie defenceman Chris Tanev, none of Vancouver's regulars are pups, and there are no aging veterans hanging on, having previously held the credibility and résumé to demand deference from current team leaders.

"The age difference [or lack thereof]has been very big," he said.

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Both Sedin and alternate captain Ryan Kesler said the level of accountability in the Canucks room is far greater than in previous seasons. Kesler said the team doesn't relish closed-door meetings, but the Canucks leadership group has picked its spots appropriately, and nipped issues in the bud.

"It's a maturing thing," he said. "We've been together for so long, and every year we get more and more comfortable with each other, and we start holding each other more and more accountable."

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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