Chris Tanev’s NHL career has taken him from one Canucks core to another. After suiting up periodically as a freshman throughout the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Final run, he became the elder statesman of a young group’s first taste of success in the 2019-20 bubble playoffs.
Tanev has meant a lot to this franchise for many years, but this playoffs may have been the beginning of the end of his time as a Canuck. Tanev was fine — he rarely made glaring errors and there is something to be said for his presence as a veteran stabilizer on the ice and in the locker room. However, it is clear that he simply is not as mobile as he once was and that he should not be relied upon as a top-pairing stalwart anymore.
Tanev is a pending unrestricted free agent and will likely come at a hefty pricetag. At 30 years old, he does not fit in to the optimal age range for a team on the rise; as such, the best direction for the club may simply be to cut ties. Whether or not this comes to pass, his postseason performance offers some important warning signs to keep in mind.
What was most impressive about Tanev’s playoff performance was his offensive output. He put up seven points in 17 games, a 33-point pace over an 82-game schedule. This exceeds any regular season rates across his career and was valuable in providing a respectable supporting cast.
Tanev continued to be a heavily relied upon by the Canucks, playing the third most five-on-five minutes of any Canucks defender at 259:07 total minutes (behind Alex Edler and Quinn Hughes). By all accounts, Hughes has also been a good influence for Hughes both on and off the ice, which is not nothing given the strange circumstances and the pressure that was on the young rookie.
In terms of controlling scoring chances, Tanev’s rate was just 44.05%, but nonetheless ranked second in the metric among Canucks blue liners behind just Hughes.
By most metrics, Tanev’s defensive game struggled this post-season.
By CorsiFor%, Tanev ranked fifth among Canucks defenders at 41.1%, ranking ahead of only Oscar Fantenberg and Jordie Benn, both bottom pair contributors. His 40.06% FenwickFor% ranks even lower, placing him sixth (beating only Fantenberg at 33.71%).
Tanev only controlled 42.03% of the Expected Goals when he was on the ice adn just 41.84% of high danger scoring chances, ranking fourth and fifth respectively by these measures.
Structural facors also favored Tanev. He had the second highest offensive zone start rate (53.19%), next to only Hughes, indicating softer game conditions than he has traditionally been used in. His PDO was also 1.05, indicating a respectable degree of luck when he was on the ice.
At his peak, Tanev was a stalwart shutdown defenceman who relied on effective position and mobility. As he has gotten older, he appears to have lost a step, making him vulnerable against speed-based teams such as the Vegas Golden Knights.
Tanev’s best moment is an easy pick — his early overtime winner to get past the Minnesota Wild in game four of the play-in series:
After scoring his very first NHL goal in overtime, Tanev sealed his legacy with another one to advance to the playoffs. If this is his last go around with the team, it’s a hell of a way to go out.
Overall Grade: C
Overall, Tanev was fine this postseason. His production was much welcomed and he came up big with his one goal, but his defensive play struggled mightily. The Canucks should tread carefully moving forward, while also appreciating what Tanev has done for the club over the years; in many ways, his playoff performance emobides this tension.