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The New York Rangers Have Finally Lost Their Way

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NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

I will be honest with you, it took a lot longer than I thought it was going to.

It took a whole 65 games into the regular season. Through that span the Rangers have pieced together a 41-22-2 record. Good for 84 points, but not good enough for a top-three spot in the division (although whether or not this is a bad thing has been discussed already). With that said, likely first-round matchup (if things hold) Montreal had their way with the Rangers Saturday night.

The past 10 games have seen the Rangers go 5-4-1. The at-one-point NHL leading, setting an insane pace as they go, goal differential has dwindled to just +37. The Rangers have scored more than two goals twice the past 10 games. The defense has been a problem, the offense isn’t generating enough and the special teams have been atrocious.

You or I might look at these issues and simply shrug our shoulders. It’s been how long, really? These problems aren’t rearing their ugly heads out of the blue. And with the team’s silence through the year the time to fix this is this summer.

Which is why the Alain Vigneault truthers (“look at his record and tell me he’s doing a bad job, also Henrik Lundqvist sucks and/or the Rangers are too sawft”) are all so happy about this.

Oh, we’re talking about Tanner Glass getting called back up. Not that I needed to clarify but just in case.

“He adds a different dimension,” they cry.

Yes he does. He will throw hits. He will throw hands. He will be energetic. I’m not denying any of that. What I’m denying is the tangible impact that will have. Toughness doesn’t make the Rangers harder to play against (ironically guys like Glass make them easier to play against because they’re not good at ... you know, hockey). Toughness doesn’t make teams “look over their shoulder” when thinking about hitting guys like Rick Nash. Toughness does not create space for the top-nine. Why? A) Because there’s been plenty of dirty, cheap shots while Glass has been on the bench. It doesn’t help. Period. And B), Glass doesn’t play with the players you’re trying to protect. So unless he can telepathically do damage from the bench, he’s not helping there.

“He has NHL experience.”

So does Marek Hrivik, Nicklas Jensen and Cristoval Nieves. Who are all better players than Glass by every metric.

“He’s not as bad as you bloggers and stats morons say he is,” they counter.

Yes he is. Statistically he might be the worst player in the NHL the past four years.

“By what? Corsi? Advanced stats? WATCH THE GAME. CORSI is meaningless.”

I’m done responding to this type of argument. Especially from those who tell me Dan Girardi is, in fact, a good defenseman and that the Adam ClendeningBrady Skjei pairing has been horrible. Reject advanced statistics at your own peril.

“You’re overreacting, fourth line guys don’t matter.”

And here is where I want to take us. Here is the actual point of this story (there’s a bigger point, but I’m saving that for the end). Look. Seriously look. “Fourth line guys don’t matter.”

Oh but they do.

Tonight Glass will replace Matt Puempel or Brandon Pirri. Tonight.

When Jesper Fast and Michael Grabner come back then who sits? Not Glass. Glass doesn’t sit because Vigneault can’t stop playing with his favorite toys. So it comes down to Pavel Buchnevich or Jimmy Vesey. And it will not be Vesey, lest the Rangers do damage to their continued success in pulling in NCAA free agents. It will be Buchnevich, who has been a spark of light this year and has shown a ceiling so high you can’t see it.

The problem with Glass has always been bigger than his impact (or lack there of) on the ice. It’s been in what he does off the ice.

Anthony Duclair, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem, Lee Stempniak and Oscar Lindberg. These are some of the players who have been healthy scratches for Glass since he’s come to the team. In the case of Hayes, he sat for Glass in a must-win playoff game just last year. (Did you know that Glass’ very presence on the bench stopped the Penguins from running up the score in the playoffs because they were afraid of retribution? I didn’t either — and I could swear the scoreboard disagreed — but I am negative and wrong so who knows?)

Where is the line? Is it Buchnevich? Or does he need more time in the AHL because his dominance in the top-six isn’t enough? It is Vesey? Or is his development not as important as having a guy on the bench who will not stop things from happening and will not help? At what point will people realize he’s hurting more than the play on the ice?

Don’t tell me it won’t get to this. If you believe that then you’re ignoring literal years of evidence.

Let’s get to the bigger issue here. The long-term issue: Jeff Gorton is now part of the problem. He can hide behind his lack of moves to this point to fix the team (he gets a pass until this summer) but he cannot hide from this.

Vigneault has driven this bus for three and a half years. He continues to ignore his blind spots, hits the bus into things and keeps along his merry way. Lundqvist has acted like a bumper guard to a lot of this, but even he can’t save things the way they’re going. This move at the very least shows that Gorton is sitting in the passenger seat and saying nothing.

The Rangers have used two of their four post-deadline callups on Glass and Steven Kampfer. Buchnevich actually has to be the third callup if he’s to be included because he’s in the NHL right now on an emergency basis. This means that of the following only ONE can be called up: Jensen, Hrivik, Ryan Graves and Nieves.

Great.

When everyone is healthy I suspect the lineup will look like this:

Nash - Zibanejad - Zuccarello

Kreider - Stepan - Vesey

Grabner - Hayes - Miller

Fast - Lindberg - Glass -- Extra: Buchnevich

McDonagh - Girardi

Staal - Smith

Skjei - Holden — Extra: Klein, Clendening, Kampfer

Make your arguments all you want. Point to Vigneault’s record all you want. Tell me I’m being negative all you want.

The reality of the situation is as follows: For 65 games this year Vigneault has been forced to dress one of the most forward skilled lineups in recent memory. Even that hasn’t been enough to overcome this porous defense (goaltending struggles didn’t help, and the offense running cold hasn’t either).

So the brass got together and decided Glass was the answer.

And Gorton green-lighted it.

Maybe he shouldn’t have gotten these passes all along.

It’s quite clear the team has learned nothing from last year.