VANCOUVER — The most immediate benefit the Vancouver Canucks reap by repatriating Henrik and Daniel Sedin is the integrity and goodwill carried by the iconic former players.
But the twins’ intelligence, keen understanding about team dynamics and culture, their selflessness and ability to connect and communicate within the organization should lead to genuine impact as the Sedins learn on the job as special advisors to Canucks general manager Jim Benning.
Months of discussions between the National Hockey League team and the Sedins, who retired three years ago as the greatest players in franchise history, culminated in Tuesday’s announcement that the transplanted Swedes were joining the Canucks’ hockey-operations department, working with Benning and assistant GMs Chris Gear and John Weisbrod.
The public-relations benefit to their hiring is inescapable.
The Canucks just staggered through their most disappointing season since the 1990s when everything from their performance, health, messaging and management was suspect. But the beloved Sedins’ return to the team they’ve devoted their adult lives to was always going to be a positive story regardless of circumstance.
And anyone who thinks Daniel and Henrik would allow themselves to be used as tokens or a marketing ploy, or accept anything less than meaningful roles, was not paying attention to their 18-year careers as players when they became as respected and lauded for their character as for their Hall-of-Fame-worthy skills.
When judging the short-term motives for these hirings, remember two things: the Sedins said when they retired that they felt they would have something to offer the organization after taking some time for themselves and their families; and the months-long discussions about their roles primarily involved Benning, not managing owner Francesco Aquilini.
The twins are back!#Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced today that Daniel and Henrik Sedin will join the Hockey Operations department as Special Advisors to the G.M.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) June 22, 2021
The challenge is defining roles for them that would provide the Sedins real input in hockey-ops while allowing them to learn about NHL management. Self-aware, they know what they don’t know.
The forty-year-olds were never going to come in – as some fans were hoping – as Canucks president or general manager or director of hockey operations.
They want to learn, just like Chris Drury did with the New York Rangers before he became their general manager this spring. Just like every former player who has built a successful second career in management needed to learn.
“When we retired, we always thought we’d like to be involved in the business side of hockey one day,” Daniel said in the Canucks’ press release. “There’s a lot to learn, but we are excited and ready for the opportunity.”
Maybe the Sedins will grow into powerful roles and run the Canuck or another NHL team one day. Or maybe the marathon hours management demands, the 12-month season and precious time away from their kids and families will prove too onerous. Maybe they won’t feel valued, or maybe they’ll discover that there is no substitute to the thrill of playing.
But if you treated the 2017-18 Canucks media guide like a high school yearbook, the twins not only would have been co-valedictorians but voted most likely to succeed – at whatever they did.
What will they do for the Canucks? The Sedins will tell us when they address the media on Wednesday, but we’re guessing they’ll start by doing a little of everything.
They’ll have contact with players, at both the NHL and development levels. They’ll be part of the inner circle in hockey ops, sitting in on everything from scouting, to free agency and the trade deadline, to roster construction and season planning, to the Canucks’ minor-league operation in Abbotsford.
They won’t arrive like rodeo bulls from a bucking chute, but the Sedins should have a voice. This is vitally important.
Messaging inside and outside the organization has suffered since Trevor Linden was pushed out as president of hockey operations not long after the Sedins retired. Players like Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher said after they left the Canucks as unrestricted free agents last fall that they heard little from management.
That shouldn’t be the case with the Sedins, who have the respect and moral authority to talk to anyone in hockey. Over time, they should be able to bridge any gaps within the organization.
As player-leaders, the Sedins were all about professionalism and inclusiveness. Yes, they were great on the ice, but they set the culture and expectations in the dressing room for a decade. Talk to any player who came to the Canucks on the Sedins’ watch and he’ll tell you how influential they were.
They could be again.
“Henrik and Daniel’s hockey intellect and experience is exceptional,” Benning said in the press release. “We’ve had an open line of communication since they retired as players. They are students of the game, eager to learn, who will make valuable contributions and strengthen our staff. We are very pleased to add their knowledge and passion for the game and have them begin the next stage of their careers with us.”