It may be more difficult to notice when stay-at-home defenceman have a breakout campaign, but based on what I’m seeing and the numbers are saying, Chris Tanev is in the midst of one.
And at the rate John Tortorella is increasing his role and responsibility, he could very well be on the path to shedding his role as a stay-at-home guy.
I mean, I can’t be the only one who noticed Tanev getting shifts on the second power play unit of late? Or that he’s getting considerably more ice-time than usual?
All this, and to a certain degree the absence of Alex Edler due to injury, is leading to Tanev establishing himself as a top-four defenceman on the Vancouver Canucks and one of the better bargains in the league at $1.5 million.
With all the praise being being sent Mike Gillis‘ way for his bargain bin value signings this off-season, maybe it’s time he got a little credit for keeping the “Tan Man” in town for the same price as Douglas Murray.
Butter, Meet Bread
As much I want to pretend that there is some hidden offensive side to Tanev’s game, laying dormant until the right coach taps into it, there just hasn’t been much to suggest that.
At the end of the day – and oh, how very wrong I would love to be about this – the bread and butter of Tanev’s game will always be keeping pucks out his of his own net.
At the end of the day though, finding a young d-man, from the Rochester Institute of Technology, that can shut the opposition’s best lines down has to be considered a coup for the Canucks. And thus far in this young season, that’s exactly what Tanev has done.
He’s playing the toughest level of competition of his career, and doing so spending a higher percentage of his ice-time at evens in the defensive zone than anyone not named Andrew Alberts – he of the six games played.
But Wait, There’s More
I don’t think anyone is expecting Tanev to turn into an offensive dynamo, but it is fair to wonder whether he can ever become a reliable 20-30 point guy.
At 23, Tanev is still several years away from hitting his prime and is on pace for a 25-point season.
Assuming he were to sustain this pace for this season and several after, that would put him in the upper-echelons of point getting shutdown defencemen; you know, the kind that nearly garner attention as “two-way” defencemen.
In the ultra-competitive Pacific Division depth is key and that’s exactly what Chris Tanev provides.
When Edler returns from injury in the coming weeks, the offensive emergence (all things being relative here) of Tanev will mean the Canucks can field three pairings with some degree of offensive upside; it won’t even be much of a stretch to wonder whether the Canucks have the best defence corps in the division at that point.
It also gives Glen Gulutzan another look on the power play; this, of course, not being a move I entirely endorse, yet one that has worked relatively well in recent outings.
Forgive me if I’m looking too far into this, but could Tanev’s emergence make another, more valuable and highly paid defenceman expendable? Does this give the Canucks the leeway on defense to part with one of it’s better members for that impact forward this team so desperately lacks in it’s top-six forwards?
There’s just no telling, but as of now the Canucks are laughing straight to the bank with their undrafted $1.5 million top-four defenceman, Chris Tanev.