Who is this guy?
Born: Dec. 20, 1989
After going undrafted, Chris Tanev signed a contract as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010, and over the past four years he has risen quickly through the orginization all the way to the Canucks' first defense unit. The 2014/15 season was probably Tanev's best in the NHL, and general manager Jim Benning rewarded him for his strong play with a five-year contract extension.
What did he do?
Tanev's offensive numbers have always been underwhelming, so his paltry two goals and 20 points comes as no surprise to anyone following the Canucks, but it is his underlying stats that make Tanev so valuable.
Tanev and Alex Edler, who composed Vancouver's top defensive unit, were the Canucks' best possession defenders by a country mile. When Tanev was on the ice, the Canucks had 52% Corsi and 53.35% of the shots.
This season was a rather important one for the quiet-but-effective blueliner, as he was forced to prove his worth to the new Canucks management team before signing a long-term extension. Tanev seemingly checked all of Benning and Co.'s boxes, as he was signed to a five-year, $22.25 million contract in mid-March.
For my money, Chris Tanev was the best defenseman on the Canucks' roster this season.
What did we like?
With the evolving field of hockey methodology, where advanced stats are gaining more and more notoriety in team management, Tanev's strong play has been regarded among hockey media as the model for the NHL's new version of the stay-at-home defenseman. Smart and agile, Tanev's game does not rely on strength or power to be effective, but he succeeds by seamlessly transitioning the puck out of his defensive zone and onto the stick of the Canucks' forwards, generating possession.
Tanev's ability to diffuse his opponents' attack and turn it into an rush the other way made him an invaluable member of the Canucks' defense. If the Canucks hope to become cup contenders in the next five years, Chris Tanev will surely be a part of it.
So what didn't we like?
If Tanev can improve his offensive game, he could easily be a Norris Trophy candidate.
He only scored two goals this season, which is significantly lower than what you would want from your number one defenseman, and his lacking ability to generate and convert offensive opportunities is showcased by both statistics and the eye-test.
Tanev was the team's second worst defensemen at 5v5 P/60 (Luca Sbisa was marginally worse), and managed only 42 5v5 shots all season. When he did pull the trigger, his shots were rarely dangerous and often were easy saves for the opposing goalie.
That being said, these drawbacks in Tanev's game are forgivable because his excellence in other aspects of the game. His weakness on offense is only what separates him from a very good player and a truly special player.
So what now?
Tanev will return to the Canucks in September and presumably resume his role on the first unit with Edler. His cap hit will be significantly higher than seasons before, but if his play next year is anything like his 2014/15 season, he will be well worth the money.
Defense is a position of need for the Canucks this season, but Benning and Linden can take solace in the contributions of the underrated Chris Tanev.