Scott Hannan’s Best Asset: His Voice
SAN JOSE — Fans who sit up front at San Jose Sharks’ games would probably recognize Scott Hannan’s voice if they heard it at the supermarket, on the golf course or over the phone. He’s usually the most vocal player on the ice.
And when he’s talking, it isn’t necessarily to chirp. He’s teaching, encouraging his teammates and providing his squad with an extra set of eyes.
“The biggest thing that he really brings our group of blue liners and our whole team is his ability to talk,” assistant coach Jim Johnson said. “When you communicate, especially as defensemen, it makes the game a lot easier.”
While the Sharks are committed to getting younger this season, Hannan, who turned 36-years-old during the All-Star break, is playing a pivotal role on the blue line. He’s a mentor to rookie-defensive partner Matt Tennyson, a vocal leader in the locker room, and with Justin Braun on the injured reserve, he’s suddenly logging top-four minutes on the back end, too.
In 36 games this season, Hannan has recorded just a single point, an assist on Dec.9 against the Edmonton Oilers. His plus/minus rating is a respectable plus-2, logging 15 minutes and 44 seconds of ice time per game.
But stats can’t accurately describe the intangibles that Hannan brings with him to the rink.
“He’s very vocal. He provides a sense of security for some of the younger defensemen and you can’t Corsi that,” head coach Todd McLellan said, referring to the trendy advanced statistic that measures puck possession. “You can’t put a value in that and he does a good job of preparing the group of [defensemen] to practice every day. In the game, he’s prepared to sacrifice himself, his body, and he’s a pretty solid penalty killer.”
But Hannan’s ability to communicate on the ice stands apart from the rest of the tools in his shed.
“It gives your partner, it gives your goaltender, it gives your forwards another set of eyes,” said Johnson, who works closely with the Sharks blue liners. “When you hear the information going back to retrieve pucks, for instance, it helps you understand what’s coming and what the next play is going to be. It’s really important for defensemen to know — before you get to that puck — where the next play’s going to be.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic agreed: “Basically, he’s like the eyes for everybody that can’t see. He tells other guys to talk and he makes our d-men talk more.”
Vlasic, who was partnered up with Hannan as a 19-year-old rookie during the 2006-07 season, said Hannan talks so much it can almost be overwhelming.
“He talks more than anybody I’ve ever played with. Sometimes, he communicates so much, I’m like, whoa, he doesn’t need to say that,” Vlasic said. “But it just makes everything easier.”
Hannan, who played in his 1000th NHL game on Oct. 14, isn’t apologizing for all of the on-ice chatter.
“If you talk to these guys in here, I probably talk way too much, according to them,” he said. “But I think it’s a good thing on the ice. It clears up a lot of situations.”
Hannan’s ability to communicate on the ice is particularly helpful to his partner, Tennyson, who was called up for the Sharks game with the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 11 with just five games of NHL experience under his belt. Despite his youth, the Sharks leaned on Tennyson heavily in their last game on Jan. 21, giving him 19 minutes and 51 seconds of ice time against the Los Angeles Kings, one of the league’s top-forechecking squads.
The 16-year veteran’s tutelage is, in part, responsible for Tennyson’s emergence on the advanced placement track.
“Being able to talk to your partner is probably one of the most important things, the communication between each other,” Tennyson said. “We know where we’re going to be and it builds a trust factor.”
Tennyson said Hannan simplifies the details, like situational stick positioning, switches, defensive zone coverage and breakouts and reverse breakouts, which is helping his adjustment to NHL hockey.
“The game doesn’t change from level to level, but those little things are the key to winning,” he said.
Hannan said showing Tennyson how to communicate on the ice is an important lesson, too.
“A lot of guys come up and they’re so worried about their own game, a lot of it is helping other guys on the ice. When you’re the back d-man, even if you’re not doing anything, a lot of it’s talking. You see the ice coming down,” he said.
But Hannan’s communication skills extend beyond the rink, into to the locker room, where he eases the emotional transition for youngsters, like Tennyson.
“He likes to give the young guys a hard time, which is nice actually,” Tennyson said. “A lot of people think that older guys do their own thing or don’t hang out or spend time in the locker room, but he’s one of those guys that’s always around. If you have anything you have to ask him, he’s always open.”
Hannan’s ability to communicate is a reflection of his hockey IQ, which allows him to play a prominent role on a playoff contender despite his growing age.
“Anybody who turns 35 will lose some speed. He compensates by being sound positionally and knowing where to be,” Vlasic said. “He reads the play extremely well and cuts plays before he has to skate. That’s what makes him efficient at 35.”
While Hannan is uncertain what the future will hold for his career, he enjoys being the Sharks’ chatterbox on the ice and mentoring rookies, like Tennyson.
“It’ll keep you young, right?” he asked. “It’ll keep you in fresh eyes.”