Canucks reflect after playoff exit, expect more youth in the lineup next season

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks got an up-close look at what a roster infused with talented youngsters can accomplish during their first-round playoff series with the Calgary Flames.

It’s a formula members of the club’s veteran core would welcome moving forward.

The Canucks started the autopsy of their season on Monday following a 7-4 loss in Calgary over the weekend that eliminated Vancouver in six games.

The Flames had five rookies — and a total of eight players making playoff debuts — in the lineup against the Canucks, but still dispatched their more experienced opponents.

First-year centre Bo Horvat made an impact this season and in the playoffs for Vancouver, but captain Henrik Sedin said he expects more youth in the ranks moving forward, while also stressing that the goal remains the same.

“Getting younger doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Sedin said as players met the media for the final time this year. “You look around and the teams that have won it, they bring up young guys and the young guys make a difference. That’s how you win it.

“Bringing up the young guys, I think that’s the way to go. If they can push and they can make a difference and bring excitement and everything, they’re going to give us a chance.”

The Canucks have a number of young players at varying stages of development in the minors and in junior, including forwards Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce and Nicklas Jensen, along with defencemen Frank Corrado and Adam Clendening.

Sedin said he’s banking on some of them being ready to make a difference next season, when he and his twin brother Daniel will be 35.

“I believe they can make a difference right away and that’s why we’re hopeful that we’re going to have a shot in the next couple years, first of all to make the playoffs and then go on a run,” said Henrik Sedin. “There’s going to be mistakes. There were mistakes with Bo early on, but when you keep trusting them and believing in them that they can play, they raise their game.

“Bo did that and if we can get other guys doing that it’s going to go a long way for us to be competitive.”

The Canucks managed the Sedins’ minutes this season after former head coach John Tortorella nearly ran them into the ground in one playoff-less season. Daniel Sedin said he’s OK with that trend continuing if it means younger players are contributing.

“We want to be counted on to be the top players on the team, but if we take less ice time, that means the younger guys have come in and played really well,” he said. “If they do that and that means us playing less and us winning, that’s fine.”

But for all the talk of youth and the future, defenceman Kevin Bieksa stressed he still believes the veterans Tortorella described as “stale” last season can get the job done after rebounding with 101 points this season.

“I think this core is still capable of big things. If you don’t win the Stanley Cup you’re going to get those questions,” said Bieksa. “All I know is this core gives us a good chance to win it every single year.”

That core isn’t getting any younger, however, and the ability to retool the roster on the fly with youngsters will probably go a long way in deciding how far the Canucks progress in 2015-’16 and beyond.

“I’m fully confident that in the next couple years we’re going to have shots to go all the way,” said Henrik Sedin. “I thought this year was a year we could have done it. That’s why it feels bad to sit here.”

Notes: Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows suffered a fractured rib and dislocated cartilage at the end of Game 3 against Calgary. He was taken to hospital prior to Game 4 after leaving the morning skate and didn’t play again in the series. … Canucks forward Brad Richardson will undergo ankle surgery next week. … Canucks forward Zack Kassian missed the end of the regular season and the playoffs with a back injury, but won’t require surgery.

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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