#Canucks: Hearing that D-man Chris Tanev likely done for the season with hand injury from Monday’s game in TB.
— Jim Jamieson (@JamiesonCanucks) March 19, 2014
Considering the team’s outlook moving forward (hint: it rhymes with Hank), and the fact that Chris Tanev left Monday’s game against the Lightning after just 8 minutes of play (especially after having missed 7 games prior to the Olympics with what I assume is a related injury), this isn’t exactly a surprise by any means.
But now that it’s official and we have some sort of premature closure, it’s worth paying tribute to Chris Tanev’s breakout campaign. We should also use this as an opportunity to speculate about his future, and what he’s worth to the Vancouver Canucks moving forward.
The Canucks find themselves in an interesting spot with Tanev heading into this summer, as he’s set to be a Restricted Free Agent again following the 1-year deal he signed last August. I’ll readily admit that I was wrong about Tanev, underestimating his upside and ability to earn himself a bigger payday after settling for that little $1.5 million bridge of a deal.
He played nearly 21 minutes per game forming a strong top defensive pairing with Dan Hamhuis this season. Aside from Hamhuis, he was unquestionably the team’s most reliable blueliner on a consistent basis. But as steady as he was at 5v5, it was his play on the penalty kill – logging exactly 3 minutes per game – where he made his bones, in particular; there’s no denying that he was one of the main reasons the team has been a top-5 unit on that front all year long.
We all knew that he was capable of being fundamentally sound defensively and doing the types of things well that lent themselves well in that regard, but his 6 goals and 17 points were somewhat of a surprise. If he’s capable of chipping in with the odd offensive play here and there – which, considering he’s 24 years old, isn’t exactly unfathomable at this point – then he’ll continue to be more valuable than I had previously envisioned.
But there’s one giant elephant in the room that we simply can’t overlook when evaluating his case: I still can’t help but have my doubts about how Tanev will hold up physically as his career progresses, despite his still youthful age. He finished 17th in blocked shots this year, endearing himself to both John Tortorella and the fans with his willingness to sacrifice his body at any given moment for the betterment of the team.
Combine that, with the seemingly extensive number of massive hits he takes throughout games, and it seems like we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time holding our breath as he limps off of the ice or gets looked at by a trainer on the bench. If you’ve been taking shots every time we’ve heard “and Tanev heads down the tunnel” during a Canucks game, then this season hasn’t been nearly as boring for you as it has been for the rest of us.
He’s a fine player, and it’s for all of the reasons which I’ve lauded him for that he has earned himself a sizeable raise in pay, but forgive me if I’m still weary of committing to him long-term. Maybe I’ll feel more confident once I’ve seen him hold up for more than 64 games in a given season. Of course if you don’t pay him and he goes on to prove that the injuries in the past were more of a fluke than a legitimate flaw, then his price-tag suddenly skyrockets even further.
Either way there’s going to be a gamble that needs to be made by the team’s decision-makers, which is kind of ironic given how little of that he actually does himself every time he steps out onto the ice.