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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Tanev continued being a defensive warrior in 2021-22

A player who can only be described as an absolute warrior Chris Tanev had another season where he laid everything on the line for his team to try and win a championship. Unfortunately for both Tanev – and the team – he suffered a couple of significant injuries (torn labrum, dislocated shoulder) that require off-season surgery to repair.

Make no mistake, a healthy Chris Tanev playing in a premier shutdown role would have had a significant impact on the outcome of the series against the Edmonton Oilers. Would it have had them win – we’ll never get to know for sure – but even an injured Tanev was the Flames’ most consistent defenceman.

The past

Chris Tanev went from playing for a team you’ve probably never heard of (Rochester Institute of Technology) in a league you’ve probably never heard of (Atlantic Hockey Association) to the Vancouver Canucks in the span of one year. He’d spend parts of his first three seasons mixed between the AHL and NHL before he permanently stuck on the roster. He spent 10 years with Vancouver, going to the playoffs four times – and just twice over his last eight years with the Canucks.

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Never one to be a prolific scorer, instead Tanev excelled in the defensive aspect of the game. He would lay out to block shots, deny quality opportunities, and wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice his own body for his team’s success.

When TJ Brodie left for Toronto in the 2020 off-season Calgary was needing a veteran defensive presence on the right side of their defence. Tanev ended up coming to Calgary on a four-year deal.

Halfway into the deal it’s been fantastic for both the player and the team.

The present

The start of the 2021-22 season saw Tanev see some time with various partners – but by the third game he found himself strapped to young Oliver Kylington. I don’t say the word strapped in a negative sense – on the contrary a smooth skating offensive minded defenceman is a nice compliment to a rugged stay-at-home defenceman.

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Just like he did with Noah Hanifin to start the previous season, Tanev ended up being quite the mentor for Kylington. In a highlight package on Hockey Night in Canada former player/teammate Kevin Bieksa showed how Tanev was instructing Kylington on where to be defensively in the playoffs.

Sure, made him seem like the general on the backend. Two years in is all it took – Hanifin and Andersson may get more minutes and offensive opportunities, but Tanev has provided great leadership on a backend that lost their long-time captain to the expansion draft.

This heatmap shows Tanev’s individual defensive impact on shot rates. Areas highlighted blue mean hardly any shots come from that area of the ice while the player is deployed, red means there’s a high influx of shots from that area. The darker the colour the more/less shots come from that area depending on the respective colour.

As we can see from the map shown Tanev is excellent at defending anything remotely close to the net. A top 5 defenceman in terms of pure defensive play in the league – and it’s not a stretch to say that. If we look at Evolving-Hockey.com we can isolate their 5v5 defensive impacts and compare to the rest of the league. (EVD = even strength defence)

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Two years in Tanev has brought more to the table than anyone thought/predicted was going to happen. We’ll see going forward how he bounces back from his injuries.

The future

There’s only one path right now when it comes to Tanev and the Flames – get healthy and try to win the Stanley Cup. The team in front of him may change in terms of player personnel. Heck maybe the Flames even lose an assistant coach to the carousel. Regardless of that change Tanev will be back playing the way he has for over a decade – laying everything he has on the line to try and earn the right to have his name engraved on the greatest trophy in sports – Lord Stanley’s Cup.

2021-22 Flames player evaluations

Johnny Gaudreau | Calle Jarnkrok | Matthew Tkachuk | Trevor Lewis | Jacob Markstrom | Dillon Dube | Elias Lindholm | Adam Ruzicka

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