Pittsburgh Penguins: Brandon Tanev Brings More Than Numbers To Team
|Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports|
If there is anything you can say about Jim Rutherford, it’s that he isn’t afraid to do what he feels is best for the team.
There hasn’t a trade or signing that he has shied away from if he feels like it is going to better the team, no matter the cost.
That case could be said for when he dished out one of the most perplexing signings last offseason, handing over a big, long-term contract to former Winnipeg Jet Brandon Tanev.
Undrafted out of Providence College, Tanev spent his entire NHL career with the Jets before signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins during free agency during the past season. Coming off a career season that saw him register 25 points (11 G, 14 A), Tanev and the Penguins came to terms for a six-year, $21 million contract.
Giving that kind of term, and salary (his average annual value is the same as near 30-goal scorer Bryan Rust) was widely criticized at the time, but Rutherford believed that Tanev could help the team - so he did what he had to so that he can land the now 28-year old forward.
Tanev, at his best, is a true-blue power forward, capable of shifting momentum with his physicality and his, at times, surprisingly impressive scoring touch. While hits don’t do much from an analytical perspective, Tanev finished fourth among forwards in the category this past season.
He was also able to chip in 11-goals in 68 games last year, and when teamed up with Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese formed one of the most defensively sound fourth lines in the league.
By The Numbers
Tanev’s contributions won’t always show up in the stat column, meaning looking at his some of his metrics are just going to lead to disappointment.
There were some games in which Tanev, as part of the fourth line, had momentum-changing shifts that would eventually lead to goals.
*Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. Based off of forwards with at least 250 minutes at 5v5. On ice numbers adjusted for score and venue
The fact is, with the contract that he was handed, it isn’t too much to ask for more offensive production. As stated before, Rust would have more than likely hit the 30-goal mark had the season not been shortened and they have the same exact cap hit.
Now that can be taken as Rust having one of the most team-friendly deals in the league, but it still doesn’t speak much to Tanev’s ability to produce on the score sheet.
Tanev graded out, not surprisingly, as not much more than a fourth liner in most individual production categories. He did grade out rather impressively when it comes to the defensive side of things.
Tanev ranked out as one of the best players in the league when it comes to suppressing opponents opportunities.
Maybe one of the most impressive things about Tanev’s game is that he has been so good at limiting opponents scoring but also has been able to tilt the ice in his favor when it comes to puck possession despite having one of the lowest offensive zone start times in the league (35.58%).
There just wasn’t much goal scoring, or prime opportunities to score, that came out of that.
Tanev will be looked up again to fill a fourth line role for the Penguins this upcoming season. The question will be who will play with him, along side Blueger, with Aston-Reese potentially missing time with an injury.
Evan Rodrigues is also being looked at as a potential fill-in, as is Colton Sceviour.
Whoever else fills out the fourth line, you can count on Tanev to bring the same energy from shift-to-shift in all aspects of the game.
I will be the first to admit that I was a fan of the signing when it broke. But it was never an issue with the player himself. I knew Tanev would be a fan-favorite, and it would be quick that people would warm up to him.
In the thick of a long-season and playoff run, Tanev’s style of play makes it easy to forget - for the moment - about the contract.
But with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin approaching the latter parts of their career, it becomes that much more imperative to create a balanced lineup from top-to-bottom.
That was ever present during their play-in loss to the Montreal Canadiens where the bottom-six accounted for just one goal at even-strength.
If Tanev can start to be a little more effective in the offensive zone, that will only make the Penguins that much better a team. Regardless, Tanev is the kind of ‘heart and soul’ players that is needed during a Stanley Cup run.
He may not be able to maintain his style of player towards the end of his contract, but it is expected the Penguins window for a Stanley Cup will be closed by then.
Tanev’s contract makes him seem like he’s a worse player than he really is, but in the end that isn’t his fault. What he can control, on the ice, Tanev has been a difference maker on the ice for the Penguins and don’t expect him to stop anytime soon.
What are your impressions of Tanev? What was your favorite Tanev moment from last season? What expectations do you have for him this upcoming season? Let us know in the comments section below! Also subscribe to the site at the top of the article and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy and @SportBlogMurphy