Calgary Flames defender Chris Tanev didn’t take a traditional route to the National Hockey League. Passed over in the NHL Draft, he emerged from the Rochester Institute of Technology (not a typical NCAA powerhouse) to become an NHL regular. He’s become a stabilizing force on the Flames blueline, serves as an alternate captain, and he’s enjoying a career year offensively.
Tanev has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, as selected by the Calgary chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Selected annually by the full membership of the PHWA (from a pool of nominees chosen by each local chapter), the Masterton Trophy is given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The award is named after the late Bill Masterton, who passed away in 1968 following injuries sustained in a game.
A product of East York, Ontario, Tanev came up through the ranks of minor hockey in the Toronto area. A late bloomer, he didn’t find his way into major junior and played his draft eligible seasons in junior A in the OPJHL (now the OJHL), and he opted to head to college. He wasn’t a junior A standout, so he headed to RIT, a school that to that point hadn’t sent any players to the NHL.
Tanev blossomed with RIT, emerging as one of the top players in his conference and attracting the attention of several NHL clubs. He ended up signing with the Vancouver Canucks at the end of his freshman season. He bounced between the Canucks and their American Hockey League farm teams for three seasons – even playing in three games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final – before cementing himself as a full-time NHLer in 2013-14.
Two things happened with Tanev in Vancouver. First, I have developed a reputation as an awesome teammate and a heart-and-soul player. I have played in tough situations. I have blocked shots and crashed and banged in the defensive zone. He mentored younger teammates, on the blueline and otherwise. But his rough-and-tumble style of him resulted in a lot of injuries over the years. Between 2013-14 and 2019-20, Tanev’s high in games played was 70. His low was 42. He missed an average of 21 games per season during his run as a regular in Vancouver.
When he signed with the Flames in 2020, here’s how we summarized the logic behind the signing:
Tanev was beloved by fans in the Vancouver market for his playing style and guts and heart and intangibles – and so was Kris Russell in Calgary – but at some point Father Time and injuries will catch up with him. The Flames are gambling that it won’t happen for another four seasons.
Tanev’s had two superb seasons with the Flames, playing in every game in each season. In 2020-21, he anchored both incarnations of the team’s best pairing – first with Rasmus Andersson and later with Mark Giordano – and Oliver Kylington has blossomed by his side throughout the 2021-22 season. He’s served as the team’s fourth alternate captain, inheriting an A full-time after Sean Monahan’s injury. He’s even set a new offensive career high for with 28 points (and counting) at the age of 32.
For going full Benjamin Button and turning back the clock for the past two seasons and becoming the unlikely cornerstone of the Flames blueline, Tanev is Calgary’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Flames players have been honored with the Masterton Trophy twice in the club’s history: Lanny McDonald was awarded it in 1982-83 and Gary Roberts in 1995-96.
Looking to up your fantasy hockey game? DailyFaceoff has the tools you need for both daily and season-long fantasy leagues, including a lineup optimizer, daily projections, and a whole lot more. Sign up for the Daily Faceoff tools here.