More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Rangers signed rugged winger Tanner Glass to a three-year, $4.35 million contract on the first day of free agency.
Actually, that’s putting it mildly. A large number of Rangers fans expressed their surprise at the organization handing that kind of contract to a player whose possession struggles were obvious for all to see during his final season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last season, Glass finished with a 39.3 Corsi percentage – the fourth-lowest among NHL skaters that played at least 62 games. Things haven’t changed in New York. Through 49 games this season, his Corsi percentage is 42.7.
Glass continues to drag down the effectiveness of teammates because of his possession-deficient ways. Teammates have to work harder when Glass is on the ice. His possession issues can be particularly damaging in the defensive zone. A productive fourth line is capable of handling difficult defensive zone assignments and providing positive possession minutes.
When Glass is in the lineup, the Rangers are 29-14-6. When he’s scratched, the Rangers are 11-3-1. That’s a difference of .194 percent.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather sought an upgrade prior to the Mar. 2 trade deadline and was able to pry versatile forward James Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 fourth-round pick. His inclusion in the lineup came at Glass’ expense.
Sheppard suited up for consecutive road games against the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Immediately, his presence on the fourth line helped create positive possession and increased scoring chances.
Fans vented their outrage over social media when Vigneault announced that Glass would replace James Sheppard in the lineup for Tuesday’s key game against the division-leading Islanders following Monday’s practice.
“Tanner was playing well before, I wanted to take look Sheppard,” Vigneault said. “We’ve got 13 healthy forwards, they’re all playing well. I just think it’s time for Tanner to come back in.”
Vigneault remains an admirer of Glass’ limited game.
“I think Tanner has played well in his role,” Vigneault said on Mar. 3. “The dynamics that he brings to our group, I would say the last little while he has played the exact type of hockey we expected; the physicality, being a deterrent against the other team’s physicality. I think he’s done that.”
MAC: ‘YOU NEED SOMEONE LIKE TANNER TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL TEAM’
Following Monday’s practice in Greenburgh, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh spoke one-on-one with XN Sports about Glass’ attributes and contributions.
“He brings a great attitude whenever he’s in the lineup,” McDonagh said. “He puts himself on the line for the team and wears his heart on his sleeve. You need to have someone like Tanner in order to have a successful team.”
McDonagh understands that Glass’ role means that he walks a fine line between providing effective ruggedness and taking undisciplined penalties.
“You see his ability to skate with good speed, finish checks,” McDonagh said. “He isn’t one to take many careless penalties. Obviously, he knows he’s a physical presence out there and a hard-nosed player. You want guys that aren’t putting the team down by taking undisciplined penalties. He does a good job of fighting that line and giving us some momentum. He’s a tough presence out there.”
McDonagh appreciates the positivity that Glass brings regardless of whether or not he’s in the lineup. He understands that it’s a difficult assignment to rotate in and out of the lineup and be asked to make a positive impact in limited minutes. Glass averages 9:57 minutes per game.
“There are guys that you love to have on your team – Tanner is one of them,” McDonagh said. “He’s a guy who comes to the rink with a great attitude every day. It’s not an easy job to play on a fourth line role. He might be in a game, then out a few games.”
With Sheppard and Glass competing for playing time, McDonagh believes the Rangers will benefit because of the different attributes brought by each bottom six-winger.
“Shepp can play a little center too if need be,” McDonagh said. “Within the game, things happen – centers take penalties and get injured. He’s an option there to take draws. They’re both good skaters with good size. So, it bodes well for the team. Having Shepp and Tanner, it gives us options depending on the opponent.”
Even though Glass hasn’t earned the trust of Ranger fans, McDonagh and Vigneault are in his corner.