The Flames brought Tanev in to do what he did so well in Vancouver -- block shots, play solid defence in his own zone and help to keep the puck out of the net. As for Hamonic, well it’s been an interesting couple of weeks going from a professional tryout with Vancouver to playing on the top defence pair with Quinn Hughes after inking a one-year, $1.25 million deal.
The Canucks either weren’t willing or able to give Tanev the kind of term he got in Calgary (four years, $4.5 million per) and are hoping that Hamonic can provide the same level of defensive acumen Tanev did on the top pairing. But, is that a realistic expectation? Last season, Hamonic played mostly with Tanev’s new D-partner, Noah Hanifin in Calgary. The duo had the worst expected goals for percentage while-on-ice at 5-on-5 of any of the Flames five most-used defence pairs (46.9 per cent).
So, with these defensive defencemen switching places, let’s take a look at the (very) early returns and what each team can expect from their new addition as the season unfolds.
Two games in two nights against Connor McDavid and Hamonic can proudly say he didn’t get victimized by the Oilers captain who put on a show Thursday night.
Hamonic and Hughes played 19:21 together at 5-on-5 in the Canucks' two games against the Oilers and they played Edmonton even in terms of high-danger shots (9-9) while on the ice. In their nearly 20 minutes together, Vancouver outscored Edmonton 3-0 at 5-on-5. A small sample, yes, but positive results so far including a pair of assists for Hamonic.
Tanev made his Flames debut alongside Hanifin Thursday night, playing 16:06 together at 5-on-5, the most of any Calgary defence pair. The Winnipeg Jets outchanced the Flames 4-2 in those minutes, but Calgary outscored the Jets 1-0 with the Hanifin-Tanev pair on the ice.
Tanev chipped in offensively with an assist in the game, but the hallmarks of his defensive game were on display as well. Tanev has great defensive awareness and Flames fans can expect him to get his stick and body in front of pucks while protecting the high-danger slot area, as he did Thursday. Tanev blocked 12 passes in the game, more than any other player.
These types of plays often go unnoticed when watching a game and definitely don’t end up on many highlight reels, but they’re the type of plays that teammates appreciate and Tanev will be counted on to provide throughout the season.
While Hamonic and Tanev are similar in many ways, one difference is that Hamonic proved to be more turnover prone last season. Hamonic ranked 164th among defencemen, averaging just over seven turnovers per-game compared to just over five per-game for Tanev (57th).
As the season progresses we will see if plays like this one below, where Hamonic turns the puck over and forces Hughes to skate it out of trouble, become common place or if he can settle in and be the dependable defensive partner he’s shown he can be in years past.
Again, we are just a few days into the season, but both players are off to a good start and we’ve seen some good examples of the defensive contributions they will be expected to make for their respective teams throughout the season.
Looking at a larger sample from last season, you’ll see that both Hamonic and Tanev ranked top-40 among all defencemen in blocked shots, blocked passes and puck battle wins in the defensive zone.
Flames fans have seen enough of Tanev over the years to know what he brings to the table. A dependable defender who can be counted on in his own zone. For Canucks fans, there are a few more question marks with Hamonic, but if he can settle in on the top pair with Hughes, that will allow Nate Schmidt and Alex Edler to to round out a pretty decent top-four.