I can’t believe we’re even talking about this.
Scratch that. I can totally believe we’re actually talking about this.
There was a cheap shot to Henrik Lundqvist where no one dropped the gloves. There was the Rangers getting blown out the water by Pittsburgh. There’s the never-ending ripples on the surface from a good portion of this fanbase that the Rangers aren’t tough enough and need a spark. There’s an actual, not at all ironic thought process that Pittsburgh would have stopped “running up the score” if they had to answer to someone.
Here’s a reminder: Tanner Glass doesn’t fix any of this — he actually hurts it.
Why are we talking about this? Not because Glass was called up (yet) thankfully. It’s because Larry Brooks picked now to run a column about how the Rangers need him. Here’s two separate passages from that article:
The Rangers are a generally hard-working, buttoned-down team consisting of low-key, low-maintenance professionals. They go about their business admirably. But these low-key personalities have produced a collective low-key mentality on the ice. The Blueshirts continually turn the other cheek ...
Again, the Rangers have been an admirable team that has far exceeded expectations. Good on them and on the coaching staff. But, boy, this is a vanilla group, even for today’s antiseptic NHL.
I’m not getting into the “enforcers don’t deter anything” argument again. If you truly believe -- despite the plethora of evidence — that enforcers somehow prevent cheap shots you’re kidding yourself. If you think Lundqvist wouldn’t have gotten hit by Cody Eakin if Glass was in the lineup you’re delusional. Even Brooks admits in his column Glass wouldn’t stop any of those things from happening.
But that’s not Brook’s point. Brooks wants the Rangers to strike back physically rather than on the score sheet. Old school fans are up in arms the Rangers didn’t try to murder Eakin on the ice after he hit Lundqvist. I was far more concerned about the lack of a response to the score; mainly the Rangers wasting a five-minute major and a full two-minute 5-on-3.
Toughness does not win Stanley Cups anymore. Can you tell me who the enforcer was on Pittsburgh last year? Or Chicago during their three-Cup run? Los Angeles has far tougher players on their roster, but those players can also play hockey well. There’s an enormous gap between Milan Lucic and Glass, obviously; you don’t need me to show you that.
But the difference is nearly as wide with former spark plug Sean Avery — who is a far superior player to Glass. Even compared to Dan Carcillo or Brandon Prust there’s a sizable gap.
You know what I want other teams to be concerned about when they play the Rangers? Losing the hockey game. When the Rangers were fully healthy teams weren’t taking liberties because they either couldn’t catch the forwards or they were worried about getting their teeth kicked in (figuratively, of course).
The Rangers have enough problems with possession — mostly thanks to a lackluster defense (and I’m being kind). Adding yet another horrific possession player to the mix won’t help the Rangers put up more of a resistance against getting hemmed in their own zone. Especially since, as we all know, once the toy is in Alain Vigneault’s hand there’s no taking it away from him. If Glass were to get called up he’d never go back down, would play over skill and we’d do the same thing all over again.
People who are afraid the Rangers might not succeed because they’re not tough enough are missing the point. The Rangers have plenty of bigger bodies to grind on the boards. Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and eventually Mika Zibanejad can throw smart hits, work the puck off the boards and, most importantly, keep possession. I don’t care that they’re not throwing enormous open ice hits. I don’t care that they’re not dropping the gloves. I don’t care the Rangers don’t have an enforcer in the lineup.
If Vigneault desperately needed an enforcer then he shouldn’t have shuffled Dylan McIlrath to Florida for half pennies on the dollar. Bringing up another trusted veteran to already get added to a frustrating lineup won’t help.
Brooks ends his column with the following:
But the idea of promoting Glass — who ideally would step in for Marek Hrivik or Matt Puempel on the fourth line — or someone like him isn’t so much about adding a deterrent as it would be to send a message that even if the Rangers won’t hit first, they will at least hit back.
So let me end mine with this:
The idea of promoting Glass -- who would most likely step in for Marek Hrivik (who has proven himself as a capable defensive forward) or Matt Puempel (who at least has some skill) — or someone like him isn’t so much adding a deterrent as it would be, yet again, extracting skill for a possession black hole.
It would also let teams know that while the Rangers might physically hit back, they won’t be able to compete on the ice.
You know, where the actual game is played.