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Canuck Player Recap: Chris Tanev

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The Canucks best defenceman remains in Vancouver, but can he stay healthy?

Vancouver Canucks v Buffalo Sabres
Chris Tanev brings the flow, and some steadying defensive play, to the Canucks.
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Who?

Chris Tanev

Born: East York, Toronto, Ontario on December 20th, 1989

Position: Defenceman

Shoots: Right

Undrafted, signed by the Vancouver Canucks on June 2nd, 2010.

Even though the Trade Tanev Club has been out in full-force for more than a year, the Canucks best defenceman remains in Vancouver. While many seemed giddy at the idea of trading Tanev, hanging on to the Toronto native is by no means a bad thing for the club.

Tanev’s effectiveness doesn’t show up on the score sheet. None of these numbers will blow your mind, and that’s perfectly fine.

Hockey Reference.

Just to think that if Chris Tanev was healthy, the Lady Byng would be within his grasp.

On a terrible Canucks team with a spotty defence, Tanev remains one of the lone bright spots. When healthy, he’s tasked with all of the defensive zone matchups, and often has to play with an inferior partner.

Tanev’s most common partner during the season was Ben Hutton. As a pairing, the duo was quietly effective in terms of limiting chances. Say what you want about the underlying numbers in Hutton’s game, but he sure didn’t look like a capable player on his own. Hutton wasn’t a hindrance to Tanev’s game, but there’s no doubt that he played his best hockey with the Canucks most responsible defenceman.

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames
Chris Tanev #8 of the Vancouver Canucks in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 11, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Playing with struggling defenceman wasn’t even the worst part of Tanev’s season. After appearing in just 42 games for the Canucks, Tanev’s body took a beating. He missed time with a groin injury, leg injury, a shattered jaw, and finally a season-ending knee injury.

Staying healthy has always been an issue with Tanev, and this season was easily the worst of the bunch. Over the last two seasons alone, Tanev has suited up for just 57% of Canucks games.

His lack of staying healthy is one of the reasons why he still remains a Canuck, but there’s another prominent reason as well.

The Vancouver media often pegs Tanev as a trade target, and for good reason. He’s one of the league’s premiere defensive defencemen. Sometimes that can be hard to quantify, especially when he plays on such a bad team.

His scoring chances against total, for example, is lowest on the Canucks. Even though he’s the best on his team at limiting chances, his scoring chances against number is right around the league average. Relative to his teammates, however, Tanev’s numbers look strong.

This brings us to the other main reason (aside from injuries) why Tanev is still a Canuck.

From day one, even when media was pounding the trade Tanev drum, Jim Benning has sat there and said that he has no intention of trading Tanev. While he did a 180 on his decisions with Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Benning sure seems like he’s saying what he means.

Tanev is one of the Canucks most valuable assets, and at age 28 trading him makes sense. However, with all his injuries from the last two seasons, trading Tanev at this point would be selling low. Although garnering assets for a rebuilding team is crucial, there’s something to be said about keeping a player who’s unique to the NHL and crucial to bringing some stability to the blueline.

There won’t be a Sportscentre Top 10 featuring Chris Tanev moments anytime soon, but here’s some of what he had to offer in 2017-18.

Tanev only scored two goals during the season, and they came in games #2 and #3. Never forget that Tanev was on pace to score 50 early on.

This “save” from Tanev absolutely embodies his commitment to playing defence.

Here was one of the more gruesome moments of the season, capped off by Michael Del Zotto picking up Tanev’s teeth from the ice.

Even with no teeth, the guy wouldn’t turn down an interview with Scott Oake. What a true Canadian.

Despite his health, and despite non-stop chatter about potential trade returns, Tanev remains an incredibly valuable member of the Canucks organization. It’s clear that he’s more valuable to the team than any potential assets that the Canucks could accrue in a trade. Whether that’s due to his health or Benning’s negotiating ability is merely a moot point.

Tanev is also a great role model for this young core trying to make their mark. Everyone in Vancouver knows about Tanev blossoming into one of the league’s premier shutdown defenders after going undrafted. There’s no harm is having Tanev continue to anchor his defence, and the Canucks are definitely a better team when he’s on the roster.