Expectations are high for Chris Tanev, especially within Canucks’ management

Chris Tanev burst onto the scene during the Canucks injury plague of 2010-11. He showed himself capable of playing quiet, steady hockey in some high-pressure situations (including Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final) and looked poised to establish himself as staple of the Canucks’ blueline in seasons to come.

After he made the team out of training camp in September, Tanev appeared to be on track. Then, was sent down to the AHL after playing only three games. What gave?

Two things: the return of the injured Aaron Rome put the Canucks over the 23-man roster limit and necessitated a move of some sort. With the team unwilling to sacrifice depth on the waiver wire, Tanev’s waiver exemption made him the ideal candidate to go elsewhere for the time being. The second, which no doubt justified the first, was that, while Tanev had indeed proven himself capable of handling a bottom pairing role, he was clearly capable of more. The Canucks hoped that a little time with the Wolves would afford Tanev some powerplay, penalty-kill, and offensive zone experience.

Wednesday afternoon, Tanev was recalled, much to the delight of Canuck fans.

In a sense, you have to feel for the kid. He doesn’t join the team as a raw prospect looking to prove he can play. That he already did. This time around, Tanev joins the team as a proven prospect expected to be better than he was last time, maybe even capable of a top-four role.

And I’m not talking about the expectations of Canuck fans here — I’m talking about the coaching and management staff. For Tanev, this is a massive tryout.

As we’ve been saying for quite some time now, Alex Edler needs a steady partner for his right side, and, as it stands, Sami Salo is the Canucks’ only option. You’ve seen, since the Finn was lost to a concussion versus Boston, the disorganization of the Canuck defense that his absence causes. That’s a testament to the underrated Salo, but it’s also an exceedingly tenuous position for a playoff team to be in. Resting the stability of your defense solely on the health of Sami Salo isn’t just stupid: it’s super stupid.

The Canucks know it, too, and they’ve been looking for another option for Edler all season. The coaching staff have tried depth defencemen Alex Sulzer and Aaron Rome, but both have proven themselves to be emergency options at best.

This is where Chris Tanev comes in. The young rearguard has a ton of desirable qualities, but the one that’s most appetizing to Canucks’ management and staff right now is that he plays the right side. Can he mesh with Alex Edler? While Tanev will likely start this stint with the big club on the third pairing, expect him to see some time with Edler before Salo returns.

If he proves that he can handle the responsibility, the Canucks can rest assured in knowing they have a backup plan for the inevitable Salo injury, and begin seasoning Tanev as Edler’s permanent partner in the future. If Tanev’s not ready, then the Canucks need to acquire Shea Weber look to the trade market.

We saw the Canucks do something similar with Cody Hodgson last season, calling up their top prospect a week before the trade deadline, so as to test his readiness for the problematic fourth line centre position. Here’s what Alain Vigneault had to say about Hodgson’s callup:

“[Cody's] another option,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “A natural centre and we’ve got a few games here before the trading deadline and another opportunity for him to get some experience to see where he is in his overall progression.”

“A lot of things are up in the air,” added Vigneault. “Obviously, our first three lines are pretty well set and we’ve tried different combinations with the fourth line and we still haven’t come up with a final decision on that.

” [...] We still haven’t found the elements to feel comfortable with right now.”

In short, either Hodgson can do this or we have no one who can.

As it turned out, Hodgson wasn’t quite ready, and the Canucks opted to acquire Maxim Lapierre via trade.

Similarly, Tanev is here to audition for a role as a middle pairing right defenceman, and if he can’t stick, expect Mike Gillis to move quickly to patch the hole. Considering that the price of a top-four blueliner is excessively high right now according to most insiders, I’m sure Gillis — like most of us — is hoping Tanev works out.

Via Thom Drance, here’s a video of some Chicago Wolves highlights, featuring multiple appearances by Chris Tanev:

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13 comments

  1. jimbob
    January 19, 2012

    i’ve been waiting for this all season, to see what he can do (again). i’m sure he has too.

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  2. bergberg
    January 19, 2012

    I’ll be rooting for Tanev for sure.

    But just curious – last week you guys discussed how Shea Webber isn’t a real option.

    Are there any right sided d-men who might be up for grabs before the trade deadline? Someone potentially undervalued by their current organisation? (we all know MG likes a deal)

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    • Dylan
      January 19, 2012

      It’s pretty hard to predict what deals he’s gonna find, though. Who the hell was thinking Chris Higgins or Maxim Lapierre last season, or Booth this season. Gillis is great at finding deals, so I’m content to just let him work.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        January 19, 2012

        Yeah, I’m not one to suggest a deal. Any list of possible acquisitions will be just be a list of middle pairing defenders with contracts set to expire. But Gillis doesn’t like rentals, so I’d take any such list with a grain of salt anyway.

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        • Dylan
          January 19, 2012

          I wonder if teams will charge MG more this year for players they don’t really want after seeing what he did last year with his ‘overpaid rentals’

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  3. nee
    January 19, 2012

    Big Tanev fan. He plays a safe, quiet game. Which, along with his natural right-ness, makes him a good potential partner for Edler. I hope he manages to stick this time. Go Tanev Go!

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    • Rituro
      January 19, 2012

      I’ll gladly second that, with a selfish hope that the Ballard-Tanev pairing that produced surprising results comes back when Salo returns.

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      • The Bookie
        January 19, 2012

        On the other hand, if he does work out playing with Edler, that’s even better. Ideally Salo plays on the third pairing, limiting his minutes and injury-likelihood, plus he can concentrate on dropping power play bombs. And having a solid veteran like Salo paired with Ballard might be the key to finally unlocking KB’s offensive potential.

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  4. iceman
    January 19, 2012

    I loved how Tanev played last season and have been hoping for his return all along. Hopefully he provides the much-needed stability into our defensive core which Rome, Sultzer and Alberts can’t.

    Go get’em, tiger!

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  5. Dan
    January 19, 2012

    An already thin roster on the farm team gets even thinner with Tanev’s call up. Assuming Connauton and Lack make the jump next season after one of the goalies is moved, farm depth is scary.

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    • I'mjustsuggesting
      January 19, 2012

      I’d say farm depth is non existent. Yikes.

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  6. akidd
    January 19, 2012

    love tanev’s game. have been waiting for this call-up. he’s smooth, calm and efficient. he looks like he barely moves out there but the puck always goes to the right place and always on the tape. i understand that gillis was playing the depth/cap game by sending down and for good reason looking at d-corps injuries these past couple of years. i had hoped that tanev would get a full season to mature in the bigs but a mid-january call-up ain’t too bad i suppose. many canuck fans tagged him as the young guy to watch this year, ahead of hodgson. hodgson is putting together a rookie of the year campaign so it will be fun to see what tanev can do.

    one thing i think gillis wanted was for tanev to beef up a bit. does anyone know if he has?

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  7. Aaron
    January 20, 2012

    I was a lot dissapointed when they moved Tanev down. I felt that Ballard and Tanev had an excellent chemistry , and it was a mistake to not play them together. I undestand the reason for doing it but I for one think that they would be a better second or third pairing option than we are currenty using. Tanev being so solid defensivly allows Ballard to play play his style knowing Tanev will cover. As for Depth in the minors, Im sure MG will work some magic.

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