Who is this guy?
Weight: 185 lbs.
Born: December 20, 1989 in Toronto, ON
Salary: $1,500,000 in 2013-14 (RFA)
Tanev was an unsigned free agent out of the Rochester Institute of Technology in May, 2010. He split time between the Canucks and the minors for two seasons, before establishing himself as a regular starter in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
What did he do? Was he any good?
In a season of upheaval and disappointment for the Canucks, Tanev's play was a rare bright spot for the club. In 64 games, Tanev put up 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) and managed to be a +12, one behind Dan Hamhuis for the team lead. He emerged as one of the Canucks steadier blueliners and looks to be an important piece for the team to build around going forward. Unfortunately, Tanev was also injured for a good chunk of the year, missng 18 games in total, including time to heal a broken thumb from a shot block (thanks Torts!).
Jim Jamieson of The Province sang Tanev's praises after the season, writing that:
In a season of under-performance that cost the Vancouver Canucks general manager his job and is likely to do the same for the coach [this piece was written before Tortorella's firing, obviously], not many players took a step forward. Of a small group that did, the one who stands out is Chris Tanev, who made the seamless transition from third-pairing defenceman to top-pair shutdown D-man in his second full season in the NHL. Unquestionably, the Canucks missed the 24-year-old Toronto native when he was injured on two occasions.
All that being said, Tanev, while certainly an important and reliable player for the team this season, was not and is not a superstar d-man. And, while he is certainly deserving of praise, the level of accolades he is receiving speaks partly to how poor the Canucks season was and how brightly the few positives from the season shone against the overwhelming darkness.
What did we like?
Tanev had only six goals this season, and having just watched them all in succession, I can safely say that, with one exception, if you've seen one you've seen them all. Tanev typically scores on wrist or light slap shots from above the faceoff circles, usually assisted by heavy traffic in front of the opposing goaltender. While unspectacular, this is still smart and solid play by Tanev - if you don't possess the greatest shot or amazing offensive skill, throwing it at the net with screens in front is never a bad idea. Here are a couple of Tanev's goals this season:
Tanev did have one goal that did not fit this mould, the Canucks final tally in a 6-2 rout of the Bruins in December (wow, remember back then when we could feel confident about the Canucks' chances against a good team like Boston? Yeah, me neither). In this case, Tanev alertly jumped into the rush off a defensive zone faceoff win and beat Milan Lucic to score a pretty 2-on-1 goal:
Other than the odd goal, Tanev is not likely to show up in the highlight reel - and, again, that's okay. He has already far exceeded expectations as an undrafted NCAA signing and is providing quality defensive play to the Canucks game in and game out.
Cool, so what did we hate?
Hate is such a strong word. And, in the case of Tanev, it is a tough one to throw around. I think Tanev thoroughly met or exceeded expectations, and beyond wishing he was something he is not (i.e. a top-level defenceman) there is not a lot to criticize. That is not to say there are not areas for improvement, but simply that Tanev is panning out nicely for a guy who, two years ago, was a number 7 option on the blueline. Now that he's established himself as a solid NHLer there will perhaps be more room for criticism in the future, but for now let's just give the guy some deserved praise, shall we?
So what now?
Tanev is a restricted free agent, and appears due for a healthy raise. Presumably, after the draft and any immediate trades, this will be among the top priorities for the Canucks new GM. Based on his improved play this season, I would expect Tanev to receive a healthy raise and a 3-5 year contract. If the Canucks can lock him for a while up for a decent cap hit, this would seem like a prudent move for the team's future.