By Sean Hartnett
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The time has come for the Rangers to banish the one player who has been holding them back. Rugged winger Tanner Glass is the anchor that continually tethers the Rangers deep in their own zone.
His deficiencies were there for all to see during Tuesday’s 4-1 defeat to the visiting Winnipeg Jets. The 31-year-old finished with a team-low minus-12 even-strength Corsi. Translation: the Rangers recorded one shot attempt for and 13 shots attempts against during five-on-five situations when Glass was on the ice.
For all the talk of the special teams’ failures against the Jets, a feeble performance turned in by the Blueshirts’ fourth line of Glass, Dominic Moore and Jarret Stoll should not be overlooked. The trio spent the night pinned in the defensive zone.
“There’s no doubt, they did spend a lot of their time on the ice in our end,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “They need to be better that way, but as a group we will put this game behind us, have a good practice tomorrow and get ready for a tough game versus Montreal.”
Moore and Stoll possess solid two-way instincts, provide center/wing versatility and are decent point producers despite being on the wrong side of 30. They can be excused for an off-night, or pitied for bearing the negative effect of being Glass’ linemates.
Simply put, the league has evolved and Glass hasn’t. Fourth lines are no longer about intimidation and face-punching. In the modern NHL, fourth lines are expected to hold their own against opposing top lines and create their share of scoring chances. Players who share Glass’ limited offensive ability are going the way of the dinosaur.
Through 87 combined regular season and playoff games a Ranger, Glass has scored one goal and collected six assists. That’s a points per game of 0.08.
You would be hard-pressed to locate a player who is a worse fit for a possession-strong fourth line. Glass goes against the grain of Vigneault’s desire for puck control and quick transition because he is allergic to possession. His game is predicated on taking the body, and thus playing without the puck.
During their run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers were able to roll four interchangeable lines that could establish offensive zone time and generate scoring chances. Their fourth line of Brian Boyle, Moore and Derek Dorsett flourished against tough assignments.
Stoll was on the other side and played an integral role in each of the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 and 2014 championships. Moore and Stoll may have regressed slightly, but they’re still capable of forming two-thirds of an effective fourth line. Swap out Glass and insert Jesper Fast and the Rangers have the ingredients for an advantageous fourth line.
During the preseason, Vigneault pondered the worthiness of Glass remaining on the Rangers’ regular season roster. The Blueshirts opted to carry 14 forwards, seven defenseman and two goalies, leaving them tight against the $71.4 million salary cap with just $150,500 in breathing room.
“We all know the skill set he brings and we don’t have a lot of that,” Vigneault said. “But do skill and speed trump that moving forward?”
There’s no reason why Glass should be getting preferential treatment ahead of two youngsters that clearly have a future in Fast and Emerson Etem. An ever-present performer during the 2015 playoffs, Fast has been a healthy scratch for two consecutive games.
“Our original thought was to put Quickie (Fast) back in,” Vigneault said following Monday’s practice. “But I thought Tanner played a good game, so I wanted to keep that line together.”
Well, AV should have trusted his gut and dressed the 23-year-old Swede against the Jets. Fast is becoming a proven quantity. He makes responsible plays that positively impact possession and demonstrate smart reads all over the ice.
Much of Vigneault’s trust in Glass comes from their days in Vancouver. It’s only natural that a coach is going to offer every chance to a player he admires, but Glass has been given his fair share of chances in New York. It clearly isn’t working.
The time has come for the Rangers to finally admit defeat by sending Glass to AHL Hartford. He would have to clear waivers to be assigned to the Wolf Pack. Two years remain on his $1.45 million annual-average value contract. His presence isn’t doing the Rangers any favors on the the ice and carrying his contract is a strain on precious salary cap space. The Rangers would be charged $500,000 against the cap by demoting Glass, but would free up $950,000.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey