Tanev Here to stay… Maybe
The Canucks haven’t been playing well since the Boston game and while some have speculated on the emotional drain the players have been dealing with since the much hyped biggest game of the year, the real answer is Sami Salo.
Salo’s injury has highlighted the fact that the Vancouver Canucks blueline has taken a step backwards with the departure of Christian Ehrhoff.
While Ehrhoff has been underwhelming in Buffalo the Canucks did nothing to replace him on the depth chart.
The problem has been not having a contingency in place in the event of the inevitable Salo injury.
Amazingly it took until January for Salo to finally be out for some time and for this flaw to be exposed. Without Salo, the Canucks have held open auditions to be Edler’s new partner with little success, while the Finnish MacInnis’ absence from the powerplay has led to Alex Burrows seeing time on the point.
As we saw in the first period of Tuesday night’s tilt with the Los Angeles Kings, it’s beginning to feel a lot like 2006/2007 when Roberto Luongo was routinely keeping his team in games and bailing out his defencemen.
The powerplay meanwhile has lost a major weapon while the five-on-five game has lost effectiveness in the crucial transition game that is the foundation of the Canucks’ offence.
It’s so painfully obvious what needs to be done at the trade deadline that I have no doubt Mike Gillis has been working the phones for quite some time now.
I also have no doubt that the market for a capable top-four defencemen, preferably right-handed if we’re going all in, is very very expensive right now, especially now that the Anaheim Ducks have re-signed Francois Beauchemin.
The remaining rental pickings are a bit slim.
You can either shoot for the moon with Shea Weber or Ryan Suter and pay through the nose or roll the dice with former Canucks Adrian Aucoin or Bryan Allen and a take a high-priced gamble that they work out.
Neither seem very appealing.
Enter Chris Tanev.
Last year the Canucks were thin on forward heading into the trade deadline and called up Cody Hodgson for two stints before the end of February.
After all, he looked calm and poised last year with the Canucks in 29 regular season games and five playoff games. Kevin Bieksa remarked after his Stanley Cup Final appearance that he looked so calm and collected that he could have played with a cigarette in his mouth.
He’s much more of a known quality to the Vancouver Canucks than say an Adrian Aucoin and far cheaper.
Here’s five reason why I think Tanev might be the in-house answer.
1. He’s a cucumber
As in cool as.
As the Kevin Bieksa comments alluded to, one of Tanev’s strengths is his poise. In his rookie stint last year he was consistently error-free and managed to find the smart, simple plays.
That’s something that’s been lacking in the defensive zone as the Canucks defencemen are too prone to run around the zone like an Italian cruise ship captain these days.
His ability to move the puck quickly and effectively should help turn around the Canucks’ struggling transition game.
Alain Vigneault called him an emotional flat-liner and hopes that his patient play will stabilize the blueline at least until Salo gets back.
2. He’s the right-hand
The loss of the right-handed Sami Salo has highlighted another problem the Canucks blueline faces: a dearth of right-handed shots.
It’s created problems both on the powerplay and again with that puck movement from the back end the Canucks rely on so heavily. It’s believed the Canucks were aggressively pursuing the right-handed Steve Montador last summer before he eventually signed with Chicago.
Tanev is a right-handed shot, which should give him a ton of opportunities to move up the depth chart quite quickly if he takes advantage of the opportunities that will soon be afforded to him.
One of the criticisms of the Ehrhoff-Edler pairing last year was that in forcing Edler to the right side to accomodate Ehrhoff’s offensive game, the Canucks were crippling Edler’s potential.
His move to the left side this year co-incides with his first All-Star nod so there may be something there. However keeping Edler on the left side with Salo out meant that one of Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts, or Aaron Rome would be forced to play 15+ minutes a night on their off-side, a recipe for the disasters you’ve been seeing.
Chris Tanev fixes all of that.
3. He Played With Steven Stamkos And PK Subban In Youth Hockey
This might mean something or might not, but it certainly can’t hurt Tanev’s case that he was around two young NHL superstars as a developing hockey player. He trained with them, practiced with them, and a first-hand look at how they developed. Something surely had to rub off on the kid. Whatever environment he was in, it bred success.
It surely had to help keep him motivated when he was cut by seven Midget teams at the age of 16, which bring us to our next point.
4. He’s a Late Bloomer
He was cut by all those teams at 16 because he was less than five feet tall and weighed under 120 lbs. He had to settle for High School hockey and summer roller hockey to get his fix before he cracked the roster of the Durham Fury of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.He was named the league’s top defenceman in his final year.
After he graduated High School, Tanev enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he majored in finance and played for the Tigers in the NCAA Division 1. He had 10 goals and 28 points in 41 games while sporting a sparkling +33, earning him Rookie of the Year honours.
He also grew more than six inches that year to finally possess the 6’2″ height he holds today.
He led the Tigers to the conference championship and was eliminated in the semi-finals of the National Tournament while catching the eye of his former roller hockey coach and Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner. The Canucks signed him as undrafted free agent in May 2010.
It’s a staggering climb that makes you realize he may not have reached the summit yet. After all, he’s still only 22.
5. He Should Have Made The Team Out Of Training Camp
Chris Tanev’s season with the Canucks last year was a success by everyone’s standards and his training camp performance was more of the same, including his first goal in a Canucks uniform.
Tanev however was a victim of the numbers game and being waiver eligible. The Canucks opted to send him to Chicago and give him top-pairing minutes in the AHL over keeping him in the pressbox in the NHL and potentially losing one of Andrew Alberts or Alex Sulzer to waivers.
Tanev ran into some early season injury troubles but has no goals and 12 assists in 25 games for the Wolves this year while earning rave reviews from scouts and Head Coach Craig MacTavish.
This isn’t a panic call-up by the Canucks but rather a testament to their depth that they can afford to keep such a fine prospect in the minors and save him for when they really need him.
That being said, if Tanev plays like he did last year I would be very worried for the futures of Alberts and Sulzer.
Tanev is also making just $900,000 for the next two years, which almost makes Ballard’s contract bearable.