<
>

Despite slow start, Sedin twins still believe that Canucks can "fight for it this year"

Daniel, left, and Henrik Sedin are 36 and in the third season of matching four-year deals. "We're going to fight the best we can to be the leading guys [because] it's where we want to be and we feel like we still have it in us," said Henrik. Aaron Poole/NHLI/Getty Images

It was a little more than three years ago -- on Nov. 1, 2013 -- that Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin signed matching four-year contract extensions with the Vancouver Canucks.

They did so with a clear, shared thought in mind: that by the time those contracts expired and the twins were 37 years old, they would have helped the next generation of core Canucks players take over and could each enjoy their last few years in supporting roles.

That certainly remains the plan, although I would argue the clock is ticking on said plan.

"That's what we're hoping for, it's what we've said all along," Henrik, the team's captain, told ESPN.com on Friday. "No one would be happier if someone came in and we were second-liners when this ended. That would be great, because that would mean we were a very competitive team. We're not going to give it to them. We're going to fight the best we can to be the leading guys [because] it's where we want to be and we feel like we still have it in us.''

The two players remain the faces of the Canucks franchise in their 16th season, not just with their consistent play on the ice but with their charitable and classy ways off it. It makes you wonder how the twilight years are going to look for them if this retooling-on-the-fly doesn't pan out.

"Two years ago, it looked promising. We made it to the playoffs and felt we were [going] in the right direction," Henrik said. "And then last year, there were different circumstances, we had injuries, that was unfortunate. This year, I think we're a deeper team. I think we can compete -- which is a different feeling from last year. But we want to see this team moving in the right direction, and I think it is. In saying that, we need young guys to step up, we need them to play a bigger role and to take over. That's what we're looking for.''

The Canucks carry an eight-game winless streak (0-7-1) into Brooklyn against the New York Islanders on Monday night after losing 6-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs over the weekend.

Canucks fans on social media are screaming for the team to go for a massive rebuild.

Vancouver GM Jim Benning and team president Trevor Linden still believe the current plan can work, of course. The team has gotten younger over the last few years. But fans are restless.

I asked both Sedins where a significant rebuilding effort -- which isn't in the cards right now -- would leave them and whether they think about things like that given how things are going.

The answer from both Sedins, as you might expect: They don't think about something like that.

"We got a game tomorrow, that's how I think about it," Daniel said. "We love Vancouver, we want to get to a point where this team can be successful again and we want to be part of that. But ... it's not entirely up to us. We're really respectful of Jim and Trevor and what they want to do. But we're going to our best to be a big help to this team and help get it back to where the Canucks belong, where we were 6-7 years ago.''

Added Henrik: "I don't want to think about that now. We're in a dogfight now. We know this team can fight for it this year. That's where we want to be.''

Sure, there is a lot of hockey left to be played. Perhaps Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen and the rest of that young crew will make believers out of the Canucks' faithful by the end of the season. Regardless, what the twins just can't fathom is ever being elsewhere.

"Vancouver's our team," Henrik said. "It's where we want to play. It's where we want to live. It's where we want to win. We can't see ourselves playing for a different team. We want to help this team get to a place where it can get something going.

"But, moving forward, it's not only up to us, if teams want to do something, they can force you out. But we're going to do our best to stay competitive and that's our only thought process.''

I know what you're thinking, that the there's no way the twins would say it publicly if they truly thought this team was headed in the wrong direction. But I sensed a genuine sincerity in their words Friday when they talked about believing in where this team was headed.

It made me think about the 2007-08 season, when their Swedish countryman Mats Sundin was honestly surprised -- and, I suspect, hurt deep-down -- when the Maple Leafs asked him to ponder a trade before he declined to waive his no-trade clause. Sundin, loyal to a fault to his team, genuinely believed the Leafs were still in the fight and didn't understand why anyone would think otherwise.

The Canucks might very well get things going and prove the twins right for that same belief. But if it doesn't go right, I'm also guessing the Sedin brothers will be the last ones to see it because of their loyalty. They will believe to the end.

All of which is going to make things interesting as their current deals tick away. Both contracts expire on June 30, 2018. And know this: The twins feel they've got plenty of hockey left in them.

"We feel like we can still play at this level," Daniel said. "We feel good, our bodies are healthy. We'll see what happens the rest of the season, but we feel good.''