Sam Gagner preparing for leadership role

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With Daniel and Henrik Sedin now retired, the Vancouver Canucks will need some other veterans to step up and fill the leadership role. Sam Gagner is ready to do that.

Though the object for a rebuilding team in any sports is to get as young as possible, teams like the Vancouver Canucks certainly need some form of veteran leadership before they become a playoff contender again.

For Sidney Crosby, it surely helped having Pittsburgh Penguins franchise icon Mario Lemieux mentor him for bits of his rookie season, before the latter retired. But with the Sedin twins now retired, the Canucks lack a veteran future Hall of Famer(s) to lead the young group entering next season.

Now, Sam Gagner is no Lemieux or Sedin twin, and he’s not going to the Hall of Fame. But he’s one of the oldest forwards on the roster, with 770 NHL games under his belt. And in an interview with Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, Gagner discussed his readiness to replace the Sedins’ as a leader and mentor for the youthful Canucks.

It’s important to have young guys grow into roles and push veterans to be better. It’s a different animal at the NHL level, but you see what Boeser was able to do this year and we got a little taste of Gaudette at the end of the year. We’ve got Pettersson coming and the list goes on – it’s an exciting time to be a Canuck and for us veteran guys, we have to come in ready to go and ready to lead the way…

I learned a lot from veteran guys when I started and it’s more about being a pro day to day,” he said. “Trying to impart words of wisdom whenever you can, being a good example and making sure your work habits are right. That’s an important thing to teach players coming up.”

After Jay Beagle (33 in October), and Loui Eriksson (33), Gagner is the oldest forward on the Canucks. With a humble personality and ability to lead in the locker room, Gagner will be counted upon to lead a Vancouver team that will be without its two best players in franchise history.

Signed to a three-year contract last offseason, Gagner struggled in his first campaign as a Canuck. He scored just 10 goals and 31 points in 74 games, after coming off a career-best 50-point campaign with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Canucks also stand to lose veteran defenceman Alexander Edler in free agency next year, unless an extension is reached. But with Gagner signed through 2019-20, it ensures the Canucks will have one proven and strong leader inside the locker room.

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This team now belongs to youngsters Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, but the train will be conducted by Gagner, the go-to leader of a team that’s looking to take that next step in 2018-19.

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