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:Tags: Chris Tanev, Edler, Prospects, Salo, trade deadline speculation, wild expectations