VANCOUVER - When Daniel and Henrik Sedin signed appropriately matching four-year, $28-million contract extensions on Friday, it was a chance for teammates to celebrate their offensive brilliance.
For their new coach, John Tortorella, it was also an opportunity to clear up something about the identical twins' reputations.
"What bothers me the most about the reputation of these two guys -- and I am not sure who started it, but our League is so Neanderthal in their thinking that it sticks -- is when they call the Sedins soft," Tortorella said, kicking off an impassioned defense of his top two players. "I've been dying to talk about that. These aren't soft people. These aren't soft players. It [angers me that] the reputation that is still out there, and it is so undeserving and it is so disrespectful."
The Sedin twins, 33, are in the final season of five-year, $30.5 million contracts and would have become unrestricted free agents in July 2014. They are first and second on the franchise's all-time scoring list, but will be 37 years old when their new contracts expire, and have been listening to the criticism - they were once dubbed the "Sedin sisters' by a Vancouver radio personality - since being selected second and third in the 1999 NHL Draft.
"We expected to be on different teams when we got drafted and now we're sitting here 14 years later on the same team and that's unheard of," Henrik said. "It says a lot about this organization. There have been a lot of times they could have maybe gone in a different direction, but they didn't and we are very fortunate to be here."
Tortorella has seen the Sedins up close for only a couple of months, but quickly recognized the abuse they absorb down low.
"They play underneath the hash marks in the tough areas," he said. "Watch how hard they play on the boards, how they protect pucks. You get lost with their skill. You think that's what they are about and you say they're soft people, and it is so wrong."
Mike Gillis had questions of his own about the Sedin twins when he first took over as Vancouver's general manager in 2008, saying at the time he wasn't sure if they were players to build a team around. The Sedins were set to become unrestricted free agents after that 2008-09 season, and it took a last-minute flight to their native Sweden for Gillis to re-sign them to their current contracts.
The negotiation was easier for both sides this time. The talks lasted four months, but Gillis said the only sticking point was the salary cap and ensuring there was enough money left to spend elsewhere.
"It was as smooth as it could have been with players of this profile," Gillis said.
In addition to being the Canucks' captain, Henrik is the franchise's all-time leader in points (810), assists (625), plus/minus (plus-209) and consecutive games played (644), an ironman streak that's second to St. Louis Blues defenseman Jaw Bouwmeester among active players.
Younger (by minutes) brother Daniel, an alternate captain, is second in franchise history in scoring with 773 points. He is Vancouver's all-time leader with 64 game-winning goals and 10 overtime goals.
Both are also thriving with increased minutes and added penalty kill duties under Tortorella. Henrik is in the top five in scoring with 18 points and a League-high 15 assists; Daniel isn't far behind his brother with six goals and 15 points in 15 games.
Their uncanny ability to find each other off the rush and while cycling the puck is only one part of the Sedins' offensive artistry.
Three seasons ago they started using intentional icings to create breakaways, with Henrik firing the puck out of his end and off the far boards so it would bounce to a streaking Daniel, often catching the defenseman and goalie by surprise. Even with the addition of no-touch icing this season, they managed to turn the play into a goal against the New Jersey Devils and former teammate Cory Schneider during a recent road trip. The Sedins are also the first to use the slap pass as a set play, with Daniel parked in the slot to redirect a slap shot from Henrik off the half wall on the power play.
"Talking to guys around the League, they are known for the plays they do, and they have invented a few," Ryan Kesler said. "A couple guys I have talked to, their team calls the slap pass the 'Sedin tip' or something like that, so they are well known for creativity."
Gillis knew how hard it would be to replace such players in free agency.
"It would have been impossible," Gillis said. "To find two players in free agency that understand and appreciate what it means to play here in Vancouver and that would be prepared to work with us to try and maintain a really competitive team would be impossible."
Staying competitive was also important to both Sedins.
"We want to win, that's the bottom line," Daniel said. "You realize when you get older your chances are getting slimmer and slimmer. We want to have a good team around us and we have a chance to have a good team around us for a lot of years. That's really important to us, that's the one thing we are looking for, that Stanley Cup."
They came within one game of winning it in 2011, and there has been plenty of talk about the Canucks' window to win closing as the Sedins - and the rest of Vancouver's core group of players - get older. But Gillis and Tortorella see the twins as key to successfully transitioning in younger players during the next few years.
"How they handle themselves, and with some of the kids we're hoping come through, to have them here showing the way as far as the process of being a pro, we couldn't be happier," Tortorella said.
That process includes their work in the community.
Earlier this season their families launched "Sedin Corner" at Rogers Arena for Canucks home games this season. It's a 14-person suite that hosts charities and groups from British Columbia that support children's health and education as well as family wellness. They also made a $1.5 million donation to B.C. Children's Hospital in 2010.
"It is [home]," Daniel said, noting two of his three children have been born in Vancouver. "We've always liked it here and our families love it here and that is a major thing. And to be part of a great team for the next couple of years was the most important thing for us."
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