New boss Trevor Linden has been presented two visions of the Vancouver Canucks: Captain Henrik Sedin sees a team that, with tweaks, can make the playoffs next season; head coach John Tortorella sees a roster that's stale and needs rebuilding.
On Monday, the day after their regular season ended, the Canucks cleaned out their lockers and took turns talking about how a season that started reasonably well then went completely awry. Among other things, they scored the fewest goals in a full season in franchise history.
Linden became president of hockey operations last week with zero front-office management experience, and he has promised season-ticket-holders a refund until July 11 if they are not pleased with his first three months on the job.
That suggests he'll be making changes. The players and the coach have different opinions about what those changes should be.
The coach's view
John Tortorella sat at the podium at Rogers Arena on Monday, his job on the line, and spoke frankly.
The roster is "stale," he said. Some veteran players need to be replaced. The Canucks need younger players (he said this after a season in which he overworked veterans instead of testing younger players). The effort to revive the team will take time, he said, and he repeated several times an idea that was addressed to everyone – management, players and fans: It's not 2011 any more. The almost Stanley Cup victory is, in hockey terms, a long time ago, and gone.
"This is a group that's been together for a long time," said Tortorella. "It's stale. It needs youth. It needs a change. I felt that from day one. We're not in 2011. We have to stop talking about 2011. The team needs to be retooled. It is a young man's game."
Tortorella, speaking in even tones, went on: "You may have to slide sideways and find your way as far as a little bit of a rebuild. You have to. It's just the nature of the game. That's not trying to help me. It's the truth."
The players' view
Henrik Sedin, the unshakeable Swede who had his worst season in a decade, believes the team is close to contention. He sees a team with strong puck-possession numbers, a team that had some bad luck, a team with a terrible shooting percentage that is likely to rebound next year.
He and his brother Daniel – who was recovering from a scary hit Sunday that saw him leave the ice on a stretcher and briefly visit the hospital – say they believe these Canucks showed at different points this season that they can compete, and an overhaul isn't the answer.
"There will be changes," said Henrik. "We're up here for a reason, and it's not a good feeling. And I'm sure Trevor, coming in, and the new GM want to make changes. But it's not about rebuilding. We've shown this year way too many times that we can still play with the best. There needs to be some change, that's fair. But it's not about rebuilding, it's not about starting over. It's about making the playoffs next year."
Last May, after the Canucks were swept from the first round by the Sharks, the refrain "we're close" was heard from Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. That sentiment was echoed on Monday.
"We're close," said Sedin, who turns 34 in September. "I know, I said the same thing after last year."
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