It was actually pretty cruel. Or the greatest troll job of all time. Tanner Glass was finally sitting in the press box, a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He watched the Rangers decimate the Canucks 5-1 in the building he built his relationship with Alain Vigneault in the first place when both called Vancouver home.
The Rangers won, there would be no lineup changes. The best lineup Vigneault could have dressed was dressed. All way well. The waters were calm. And then Derick Brassard got the mumps. And then Vigneault didn't have any options. And then Glass went back into the lineup.
And right as Brassard got healthy enough to start practicing with the team again, Lee Stempniak was quarantined because he had the mumps. And around and around we go.
If nothing else, the Rangers have had a very interesting start to the year in terms of actual players being able to, you know, play hockey. At one point the Rangers were down four of their starting six defensemen, their number one center and one of their best players (Ryan McDonagh).
Once everyone started getting healthy from injuries the mumps started going around and now we're here. It started with Glass, moved on to Brassard and now it's apparently infected the Hartford Wolfpack as well with Joey Crabb and head coach Ken Gernander.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: the Rangers really haven't been truly healthy all year. Which has sort of forced Vigneault's hands when it comes to players like Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller, who didn't stick for very long out of the gate but are slowly becoming important pieces now.
Miller especially has grown by leaps and bounds the past few games, really showing why he's been so dominant in the AHL during his stints there. Both Adam (here) and Mike (here) have profiled why he needs to see a bigger role with the team. Thanks to these injuries / mump infections, he's been given an opportunity to stick around.
Fast -- who really should have always hung around from the beginning -- has continued to impress both in his own zone and with the ability to create something out of punishing zone starts. He's really complimented the fourth line nicely and has even added some flashes of offense. For a team that relied so heavily on their fourth line's defense last year, this is only a good thing.
Throw in Kevin Hayes who has been around from the get-go and who is improving every single game and Anthony Duclair -- who should come around after the World Juniors are over -- and you have a good problem: too many able bodies for not enough roster spots.
The Rangers have been forced to play the kids a little bit more than they might have wanted to. And that's created opportunities for valuable experience that both Miller and Fast has soaked up quite happily. When everyone is healthy the Rangers are going to have tough choices to make.
I'm not so sure those choices would be as tough if Vigneault wasn't forced out of his comfort zone a little bit with the kids. So, in a way, thanks, mumps?