Just because he spent the summer working with Steven Stamkos’ shooting instructor doesn’t mean Chris Tanev will be launching rockets like the Tampa super sniper when the new National Hockey League season begins next month. Tanev does, however, believe that the time spent with Toronto area shooting instructor Mark Filippone is already producing a noticeable difference in the way he fires the puck.
In Vancouver to skate with his Canucks teammates ahead of training camp, Tanev feels he possesses a stronger shot and a better release than he did when he left town last spring. But he’s cautioning the headline writers to steer clear of any direct comparisons to Stamkos.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t put that up there,” he told Canucks Army with a laugh. “It’s still a work in progress. I just tried to improve the technique. I guess there are different ways to shoot. You try to use the stick to your advantage to get the flex and whip to help you when you shoot the puck. Once you learn the technique, then you have to put the repetitions in.”
Realizing his shot was one of the few areas of his game that hadn’t developed to an elite level, the 26-year-old defenseman sought out Filippone and put in the hours at his Score Hockey Schools during the off-season. Together, the two worked on getting the puck off Tanev’s stick faster and harder. It’s not all about blowing point shots past goalies although Tanev would certainly welcome a bump from the four goals he scored on 42 shots last season.
His thinking now is if he can do a better job of getting the puck to the net, he can help generate offence for his Canucks teammates whether it’s on deflections, rebounds or goal-mouth scrambles.
“If you look at the D who put up a lot of points, they get a lot of pucks on net,” he says. “They score when there is traffic. If there is no traffic, maybe there are rebounds or tips. So that’s an area I think I can help.”
For his part, Filippone was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a player of Tanev’s calibre. It wasn’t so much Tanev’s physical tools that excited the coach, but his mental approach to improving an area that required attention.
“Chris is self-aware, and he came to me and said ‘I know I have to work on my shot,’ Filippone said in a telephone interview. “Some players at this level are not open to change. Chris was open to everything. He bought into what I was showing him, and he saw results. It’s easy to work with guys like Chris. I point out what I see and Chris bought in right away. I loved working with him. And he seemed to enjoy it too because he was seeing tangible results.”
In his three full seasons on the Canucks defence, Tanev has recorded 17, 20 and 18 points although his shot totals have declined from a career-high 65 in 2013-14 to 53 the following season and they dipped again last year to 42. Overall, offence from the Canucks defence was a glaring weakness for the hockey club last season.
Tanev is under no illusion that he will challenge Erik Karlsson for the league lead in production from the blueline. That’s just not the player he is. But he saw an opportunity to address an area he felt he could improve and, in turn, do his part to boost the Canucks attack. Soon, he’ll get the chance to put his new and improved shot to the test in the preseason and on to the games that matter.
“I can definitely feel the difference, and I know when I’m doing things properly,” says Tanev who altered his technique, but not the stick he uses. “When Mark tells you to do something, and you do it the way he wants, and you see the results you get, then you start to believe that these are things you need to do and you want to work on that.”
Armed with the knowledge gained during his summer workouts, Tanev will continue to blast away from the blueline. If there is enough evidence that his shot is a weapon, it’s conceivable Tanev could develop into a right-handed option on the Canucks second power play unit. He saw more than 92 minutes with the man advantage last season – fourth among Canucks defensemen in time logged and fifth in average power play ice time per game.
None of Tanev’s off-season work was done with an eye toward taking over the Canucks power play. He simply wanted to upgrade an area he felt was holding him back. Filippone feels strongly about the work Tanev has put in and has pledged to put in an effort of his own to keep tabs on his student throughout the season.
“I’m going to have to stay up late now to watch Vancouver to see if Chris is doing the things we worked on,” he says.
It won’t be long until Canucks fans can see for themselves if there is a noticeable difference in the way Tanev gets the puck to the net. Coming back for another season of soft-serve delivery didn’t make much sense. That’s why Tanev figured working with a private coach was certainly worth a shot.