Vancouver Canucks: Quantifying Chris Tanev’s impact this season

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 11: Chris Tanev
CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 11: Chris Tanev /

In the two games since Chris Tanev has gone down with a hand injury, the Canucks have allowed nine goals. A blue line corpse that was top 5 in goals allowed just a couple games ago is suddenly leaking odd man rushes and goals. In light of this, I think it’s time we try and quantify Chris Tanev’s performance.

While the primary purpose of this article is to try and quantify Chris Tanev’s impact with the Vancouver Canucks, it’s critical to acknowledge the importance of the eye test. Although it is more subjective and often anecdotal, the eye test is a key component of scouting players. It’s the combination of the eye test and advanced stats that ultimately allow one to properly evaluate a player.

As it pertains to Tanev, the eye test is really interesting, and often difficult to assess. He doesn’t provide a lot of offence, flash, nor does he bring an overly physical presence. When you solely focus on Tanev though, you can see how his efficiency helps the team on both sides of the ice.

While defending, Tanev excels at reading and anticipating plays from the opposition; allowing him to get in an optimal defensive position early. It’s this factor that ensures that he’s rarely scrambling or out of position.

When the puck is transitioned into the neutral zone by the opposing team, Tanev uses his mobility to close the gap between himself and the puck carrier. Once he gets in tight, he then uses his active stick to force the opposing forwards to either dump the puck in or take the outside lane. It’s ultimately his anticipation and gap control that allow him to snuff out offensive threats.

With the puck, Tanev is effective at transitioning the play out of the defensive zone. He either makes a smart and accurate pass to a forward, or skates the puck out himself using his agility. In both instances he’s incredibly poised and able to move the puck up the ice with ease.

That being said, let’s turn our attention to some stats to try and quantify Tanev’s impact.

With or Without You

These set of stats aim to showcase players’ possession metrics when on the ice with and without a specific player(in this case Tanev).

The most obvious players to look at first would be Tanev’s most common defensive partners. To start let’s take a look at Ben Hutton.

All data in this section is courtesy of Natural Stattrick.

Player 1Player 2TOICF%GF%
Ben HuttonChris Tanev139:2253.364.3
Ben Huttonw/o Chris Tanev125:5448.250.0
w/o Ben HuttonChris Tanev92:4352.5363.6

In this chart, you can see that the pair have logged north of 139 minutes on the ice together. When paired together, they control 53.3% of shots. Without Tanev however, Hutton controls only 48.2% of shots.

The GF% also shows that the Canucks control 64.3% of five-on-five scoring when the pair are on the ice together- an excellent mark. With just Hutton on the ice though, the Canucks control just 50% of scoring.

The argument that Tanev benefits just as much as Hutton does from playing with each other is snuffed out when you look at Tanev’s numbers without Hutton. Tanev’s Corsi and GF% drop just 0.72 and 0.65 percent respectively.

Player 1Player 2TOICF%GF%
Michael Del ZottoChris Tanev53:4354.666.7
Michael Del Zottow/o Chris Tanev222:4943.527.3
w/o Michael Del ZottoChris Tanev178:2252.462.5

This second chart shows the same stats, except with Tanev’s second most common partner in Michael Del Zotto. While the sample size is smaller in this case with the pair logging only 53 minutes together, similar results are evident. As a pair, Tanev and Del Zotto control 54.6% of shots and 66.7% of the goals scored.

Without Tanev though, Del Zotto’s stats become pretty ugly. In 222 minutes away from Tanev, Del Zotto has controlled just 43.5% of shots and 27.3% of goals scored.

Player 1Player 2Player 3Player 4TOICF%GF%
Chris TanevMarkus GranlundBrandon SutterDerek Dorsett70:0652.542.9
w/o Chris TanevMarkus GranlundBrandon SutterDerek Dorsett63:3342.325.0

Moving onto forwards, I decided to start with the shutdown line of Brandon Sutter, Derek Dorsett, and Markus Granlund. When this line is deployed without Tanev, they’ve controlled only 42.3% of shots and 25% of goals in 63 minutes of action.

Throw Tanev onto the ice, and in 70 minutes of playtime the line suddenly controls 10% more of the shots at a 52.5% clip.

Player 1Player 2Player 3Player 4TOICF%GF%
Chris TanevSven BaertschiBo HorvatBrock Boeser42:2156.480.0
w/o Chris TanevSven BaertschiBo HorvatBrock Boeser89:0046.750.0

The Killer-B’s line is another example of a group of forwards that controls possession and scoring at a much better rate with Tanev on the ice. Without the Tanman, the Killer-B’s control 46.7% of shots and 50% of five-on-five scoring.

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Add Tanev to the equation, and the group controls 56% of shots in 42 minutes on the ice together.

This graphic from HockeyViz shows the score adjust shots for and against for each player with and without Tanev on the ice.

The further you move to the right, the more shots you generate; and the further up you move up, the fewer shots you allow. Black boxed numbers show the player’s position on the graph with Tanev; the red boxed numbers show the player’s position without Tanev. The lines connect a player’s black and red boxes.

The graph shows that with Tanev on the ice, the team allows shots at a significantly lower rate. This is evident due to how high the black boxes get relative to their red counterparts. From this, we can infer that Tanev excels at suppressing shots; something that the eye test affirms.

Zone Exits/Entries

This chart by Daryl Keeping shows that the team has the most successful zone exits with Tanev on the ice. The stipulation however, has been that a higher proportion of those exits have been uncontrolled. This indicates that with Tanev on the ice the team is very effective at getting the puck out of the defensive zone; even if that means clearing the puck off the glass, or chipping it into the neutral zone at times.

Dump in %(Data courtesy Darryl Keeping)
Del Zotto44.76%

When it comes to the opposing team’s zone entries, the chart above shows that Tanev is extremely successful at forcing teams to dump the puck in. He leads the team by a significant margin when it comes to forcing players into uncontrolled entries.

Performance Relative to the League

At this point we’ve already established that the Canucks control possession and scoring at a much higher rate with Tanev on the ice. With this section though, we’ll use a couple of metrics to compare his performance to other defenceman in the league.

Point shares(PS) is a stat comparable to WAR in baseball. Similar to how WAR estimates how many wins an individual player has contributed for his team in baseball, PS estimates how many points in the standings a player has contributed. Defensive Point shares(DPS) specifically looks at the point share totals for defenceman.

According to Hockey Reference, Tanev is eighth in the league for DPS with 1.4. The relevancy of this stat can be confirmed by looking at last year’s leaders; with Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and Jaccob Slavin all included in the top 10.

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Another indicator of defensive ability is the positions from which the opposing team most commonly shoot the puck from. With this graphic, red areas are regions where Tanev is allowing more shots, whereas blue areas are regions where Tanev is allowing fewer shots relative to league average.

In Tanev’s chart you can see that he is allowing shots from in tight at a much lower rate compared to the league average. It’s clear that the opposition is being forced to take shots from further out when Tanev is on the ice.

The final metric I wanted to use is xGF%. xGF% is different than the GF% stats we’ve used in that it takes into account quality of scoring chances to predict an expected GF%. This metric is far more reliable long term as GF% can be skewed in small sample sizes by unlucky bounces and improbable goals.

Tanev is unsurprisingly the best defenceman on the Canucks with an xGF% of 56.6%. He also favours comparably relative to the league; ranking 22nd in the league amongst qualified defenders.


While we only have a 15 game sample size for his performance this season, it’s clear that Tanev is irreplaceable on the Canucks’ blueline.

Next: Week 5 Top Prospects: Gaudette, Lind & Dahlen

Furthermore, one could make the argument that he is entering elite territory when it comes to defensive defenceman around the league. While nobody is suggesting that Tanev will be competing for a Norris Trophy anytime soon, it’s fair to say that he’s been the team’s MVP so far this season.