Diminutive Jets forward a giant in the eyes of his teammates
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:
All-Access Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Pay $19.00 every four weeks. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/04/2019 (1393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brandon Tanev isn’t counted among Winnipeg’s more imposing forwards, yet he’s a giant in the eyes of the men he serves with on the Jets roster.
The human pinball, out with a bum left hand since early last week, was back in a Jets jersey Friday night as the hosts pushed to square their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series with the division-rival St. Louis Blues. Earlier in the day, the presumption Tanev, a crucial piece on the team’s bottom-six forward group, would suit up at Bell MTS Place sparked a discernible buzz in the Winnipeg locker room.
To say the 6-0, 180-pound winger, whose intensity and stamina seem in endless supply, is held in high esteem by his teammates would be a grand understatement.
“Yeah, Tanny’s a huge part of our team. Obviously, his speed and physicality is a big part of our game. Getting him back is a huge boost,” said Jets top-line centre Mark Scheifele, following the morning skate.
“Feeling good. It’s the most exciting time of the year, it’s playoff hockey. It’s going to be fun to get back in there and play in front of our home crowd,” Tanev said. “You go out there and you work and you wait for an opportunity to get back in the lineup and do anything you can to help your team win.”
Tanev played every regular-season game and was enjoying a career season in terms of offensive production — 14 goals and 29 points — before leaving Game 80 on April 2 in Minnesota after taking a hack from Wild centre Eric Staal.
A couple of fingers were in a splint and heavily bandaged when he was spotted outside the team dressing room in Denver 48 hours after Staal’s chop, leading to the suspicion s season-ending surgery was a distinct possibility — particularly when he was sent home midway through the Jets’ final road trip.
Eight days later, he looked no worse for wear, firing the puck with authority during the morning skate at the downtown arena. He’s actually been a regular participant at practice the past few days but was held out for Game 1 Wednesday.
“Just his energy… he brings it every night. He’s a bit of a heart-and-soul player,” said Jets centre Adam Lowry. “He’s so invaluable on our (penalty kill). He’s so valuable on our forecheck. He’s in on the body. He would have even added to the physicality in Game 1.”
Tanev knows no other way to play the game; it’s how he carved out a regular role with Winnipeg during the 2016-17 season, offering up a relentless checking style while targeting anything that moved.
The Toronto product, who played four years at Providence College (Rhode Island) before signing as a free agent with the Jets, has 195 regular-season games under his belt and 17 more in the post-season, all coming last season during the team’s run to the Western Conference final.
A role player, he quickly became one of Winnipeg’s unheralded stars during the playoffs last season, scoring four goals and chipping in a pair of assists while conducting himself like a wrecking ball. Those services are routinely required, but none more so than during the chase for the Stanley Cup.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, Tanev has positioned himself nicely for a sizeable raise from the $US1.15 million he earned on one-year deal in 2018-19.
“He’s a guy we have a lot of respect for and a lot of time for in this room. He jumps in front of a lot of shots for us. He takes every hit, he finishes every check he can and he plays so hard,” said Lowry.
“He’s such an efficient skater it might be easier for him to get to the check. There’s different tolls. Every time you run into somebody you’re going to get bumped and bruised. He’s a tough customer. He might be smaller in stature, but he plays a lot bigger than he is.”
During the 2018-19 season, Tanev finished third among NHLers with 278 hits (55 more than Lowry, who was next on the Jets’ list), and he led all Winnipeg forwards with 81 blocked shots. Many of those blasts dropped him to the ice and left him wincing, but he’d usually spring up, scramble to the bench and regroup for his next shift.
Those are just the obvious signs of physical suffering. Rarely, if ever, is there a player without a minor limp or an icepack strapped to a limb, said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
“You wouldn’t know any of it because we wouldn’t tell you. The blocked shots that are purple, the bruised ribs and all the things that so many of these players play with that we don’t announce because they play with them,” he said. (Tanev’s) a durable, tough young man.”
It’s not the first time Staal has used his stick with ill intention. In November 2016 his slash to the mitts of Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau shelved the Flames star forward for 10 games with a broken finger that required surgery.
Tanev, who was far more fortunate, took the high road on the incident that occurred early in the first period against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center. “I don’t really have a comment. It’s part of the game and it’s hockey.”
He was then asked if he’s got a higher pain tolerance than most.
“It’s the most exciting time of the year, it’s playoff hockey. If you feel good, you wait for that opportunity to come,” he said. “You get bumps and bruises along the way and a lot of guys play with those. It’s managing them and getting the opportunity to get back in the lineup when you can.
“I leave that up to the training staff. It’s their job to get me ready when I can be and they do a great job of that here.”
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Friday, April 12, 2019 10:49 PM CDT: Adds photo