Even with injuries, Chris Tanev was very effective in 2022-23

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Mikael Backlund was the great stabilizing force for the Calgary Flames’ forward group. But for the blueline group, Chris Tanev was every bit as important as Backlund was for the forwards.
When he was healthy (or healthy-ish) and playing near his best, Tanev was one of the most important players on the Flames’ roster in 2022-23.

The past

An Ontario kid, Tanev worked his way up through minor hockey and bounced around a bit through junior A as he approached his draft year. Ending up undrafted, he headed to college, playing his 20-year-old season at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He impressed scouts, and left school after a single season to join the Vancouver Canucks organization.
Tanev spent three seasons bouncing between the Canucks’ NHL roster and their AHL affiliate, but became a full-time NHLer starting in 2013-14. He spent seven full seasons with the Canucks, emerging as a heart-and-soul, tough-minutes blueliner and serving as an alternate captain for several seasons. He signed with the Flames as a free agent in 2020 after being unable to come to terms with the Canucks on an extension.
Despite some concerns about his playing style from the FlamesNation writing staff when he signed, Tanev played in every game with the Flames in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 regular seasons. Heck, you could easily say that his defensive pairing was consistently the best Flames pairing during those two seasons. But Tanev was banged up in the playoffs against Dallas in 2022 and required shoulder surgery.

The present

When Tanev was signed by the Flames, we were a little nervous about how the contract would age:
Tanev was beloved by fans in the Vancouver market for his playing style and guts and heart and intangibles – and so was Kris Russell in Calgary – but at some point Father Time and injuries will catch up with him. The Flames are gambling that it won’t happen for another four seasons.
The Flames were about to get out from under the Troy Brouwer buyout. And, like, Brouwer, Tanev was a physical, crash-and-bang player whose playing style seemed primed for injuries or physical slow-downs. Brouwer slowed down a ton, while Tanev had experienced injuries with Vancouver.
Well, after two seasons of largely avoiding tough injuries, Tanev missed 17 games in 2022-23 – split across four stints on the injury list – and probably wasn’t 100% all season. Due to Tanev’s bumps and bruises, and performance and injury issues elsewhere in the defensive group, Tanev was used in a lot of different situations and with different partners all season. He bounced around from MacKenzie Weegar, to Noah Hanifin, to Nikita Zadorov… and even a chunk of time with Dennis Gilbert.
Via Dobber Hockey, here’s the Flames’ player usage chart for blueliners in 2022-23. Towards the left is more defensive zone starts, towards the top is tougher opposition. Blue indicates stronger possession numbers, red indicates weaker possession numbers.
Even though Tanev couldn’t have been close to 100% this season, and even with a rotation of different partners all season, he was one of the most impactful players on the team. If he had been able to suit up for a handful more games in 2022-23, perhaps the team could have had a better fate.

The future

Tanev has one season left in his current contract. He turns 34 in December. Are his best years behind him? Based on aging curves and his playing style, yeah, probably. But he can still be an important piece of the puzzle for the Flames, and he has a knack for being able to play with a lot of different types of partners in a lot of different types of game situations.
If Tanev only has one season left with the Flames, it could still end up being an important one for both him and the franchise if he can stay healthy. Or healthy-ish.
Letter Grade: B

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