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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Tanev: the unofficial 2021 defensive defenceman of the year

When Chris Tanev signed in Calgary in the off-season I was included in the (many) skeptical critics that questioned the signing. Some of the common critiques were:

  • “It’s too long of a contract”
  • “He’s already a declining asset”
  • “His hair is better than mine”
  • “Why didn’t they just re-sign Brodie?”

All valid concerns based on the data available and his more recent history of play in Vancouver. Chris Tanev didn’t care, he came to Calgary to work. He worked so hard he ended up recording the second best even strength defensive impact of any defenceman in the modern analytical era (2007-08 to 2020-21) and clearly led this season leaving second place in the dust – all while playing half the year with broken ribs.

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The overall defensive impact in the tweet comes from Evolving-Hockey.com, but they aren’t the only public site/model that praised Tanev’s defensive game. The following images are from HockeyViz.com and show the impact Chris Tanev had on shot rates at 5v5 this season. (Blue means no shots allowed, Red means lots of shots allowed.)

                                 

An absolute master class in protecting the net. You could entitle the first blue sea “a goalie’s dream” as when Tanev was on the ice virtually nothing made it to the close slot where high danger chances come from. The team as whole actually performed above average defensively overall (more on that at a later date), but none better than that of the Flames #8.

Only Ron Hainsey in 2013-14 posted a higher defensive impact according to evolving-hockey’s database. Tanev’s season outpaced that of Willie Mitchell (VAN 09-09), Niklas Hjalmarsson (ARI 18-19), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJ 13-14), and Chris Tanev (VAN 14-15…, wait what?). In fact Chris Tanev is the only player to appear twice among the All-Time top 10 defensive season performances – epic stuff.

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The little things he does on the ice help contribute to his teams success, little things that don’t get widespread public recognition. They may not result in him getting very many goals for, but they certainly (don’t) show up in the goals against column. Chris Tanev has proven he is one of the best defensive specialists in the league and is undoubtedly the 2020-21 Defensive Defenceman of the Year (Unofficially).