The Clear-Cut Case of Tanner Glass; He’s Not Good At Hockey

Earlier today Kevin wrote a piece in which he broke down what he called the “curious case” of Tanner Glass. Largely, I understand what he was trying to do. Just as in my “Retain or Release” articles, Kevin wanted to present the best arguments he could to, while highlighting some issues, bring hope for success in regards to Tanner Glass’ upcoming tenure with the Rangers.

That doesn’t mean I won’t take this opportunity to break it down – as well as other common questions about/justifications for having Tanner Glass on this team – and show why there is little upside to be seen. Tanner Glass is quite simply not a good hockey player, making him a poor player to have in general. The three-year deal at over $1 million annually makes it a horrendous acquisition, at least in foresight. Let’s look at some things Kevin said to try to help Glen Sather and Alain Vigneault save face.

“While Glass is far from being a heavyweight, he is a step-up in class from Dorsett who was over-matched more often than not when attempting to do the heavy lifting for the Blueshirts. Glass can also be counted on to stand-up for a teammate which the Rangers have been reluctant to do recently.”

I went into detail about fighting’s place in the NHL when evaluating Dan Carcillo prior to free agency, so I recommend reading that. Here were the main takeaways, though.

  1.  It’s been statistically proven by people who specialize in math and looked heavily into the data that fighting does not deter the opposition from making making illegal hits or playing physically in general. In fact, the opposite is true. Teams who fight more tend to be on the receiving end of more penalties and get injured more. You might feel warm and fuzzy watching someone “stand up for a teammate” but it doesn’t actually accomplish anything in terms of preventing further penalties or injuries in the future.
  2.  It’s been statistically proven that fighting does not help win hockey games. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (!) released a five-year study showing that teams who fight more tend to lose more.

So wonderful. Maybe Tanner Glass will give the opposition’s goons a few more bruises than Derek Dorsett did. Is that entertaining? Perhaps. Will you feel some sense of secondhand vindication watching Glass pound on Chris Neil through your TV screen? Perhaps. Does it actually help the Rangers win hockey games? No. Does it actually deter cheapshots and protect the other Rangers’ players? No. Kevin might as well have shown evidence that Tanner Glass is really good at juggling. Or solving a Rubix Cube. Or making lasagna. They all are similarly irrelevant to the goal of winning hockey games and, eventually, a Stanley Cup.

“Okay Adam, but I am still going to stubbornly insist that fighting does help win hockey games and protect teammates despite no evidence that this is true and mountains of evidence proving that it’s false.”

Fine. Let’s pretend that fighting is a relevant and necessary skill to have in the NHL right now. Why not acquire a player who can fight and play competent hockey? Or, at the very least, play much more competent hockey than Tanner Glass is capable of? Like, I don’t know, Derek Dorsett? Dan Carcillo? In fact, here is a massive chart comparing Glass to other enforcers/agitators who were available to the Rangers.

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I mean, just look at this. Steve Downie signed with Pittsburgh for one year at one million dollars and had significantly better possession numbers despite playing much harder competition. Dorsett and Carcillo are both also significantly better. Dorsett’s cap hit was negligible from Glass’. Carcillo is still trying to find a team. Thorburn, Thornton Crombeen, and Clune are all bad at hockey, but are still better than Tanner Glass and don’t have the contract that the Rangers gave glass. Even Paul Bissonnette would have been a better pickup. On this chart, only Downie and Dorsett are really guys worth having on your hockey team, but even in some fantasy world where fighting matters, the Rangers still managed to pick the worst of many available goons. In fact, Tanner Glass had the worst Corsi Rel (how his Corsi ranks compared to his teammates) in the entire NHL last season. No player was a bigger detriment to his team last season than Tanner Glass was to the Penguins.

Kevin then goes on to say that “Glass’ short-handed experience” will be a welcome addition to the Rangers… which does not really make much sense. Anyone can have experience in anything. It’s only relevant if that person was good at the task in the experience. Kevin does a great job of proving how this “experience” is worthless.

“However, when you dig deep into Glass’ penalty killing performance from last season this shot blocking sequence seems more like the exception than the norm. Glass was ranked 379th out of 435 players who played even a second on the penalty kill last year with a paltry short-handed Corsi of 3.4% (% of team shot attempts for vs. against while the player is on the ice). With Vigneault deploying players such as Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis on the penalty kill to provide some offense, I’m not sure where a guy like Glass fits in when he’s neither preventing shot attempts against nor creating any for. Brian Boyle had a short-handed Corsi of 10.1%.”

There you go. To put this in other terms, 87.1% of all players who played any PK time were better at suppressing shot attempts than Tanner Glass was last year.  His “experience” as a penalty killer is meaningless because he’s not actually good at it. Him playing on the PK would mean more pucks going towards Lundqvist than ever before, and therefore more goals scored against him. Here’s more from Kevin.

“In fairness to Glass, his talk about his shot blocking ability being comparable to Boyle’s is accurate as he out-shot blocked Boyle 57 to 54 last season.

The former Penguin is a hard-nosed, gritty winger who was eighth in the NHL in hits last season with 247, so he should be able to provide a spark with a booming collision when necessary, which is exactly what you want from a fourth line player.”

Let’s play a game: Name an example of a time when a player was credited with a blocked shot or (legal) hit while his own team had the puck.

I’ll bet you can’t. While the “energy” and “effort” from Glass is nice, all the big hit and blocked shot totals mean is that his team happens to not have the puck very much when he’s on the ice. And having possession of the puck is pretty much the most important factor in hockey. You can score when your team has the puck in the offensive zone. The other team can’t. Tanner Glass is hitting and blocking shots because the opponent tends to have the puck a lot, particularly in his own end, whenever he’s on the ice. That’s a very bad thing.

“After Vigneault’s success last season, he deserves the benefit of the doubt on Glass. So when the Rangers head coach states “[Glass] improved since I had him, and I think we’re getting a real solid player there” I’m going to have to trust his judgement despite the newest Blueshirt’s numbers being the polar opposite of what made the Rangers fourth line and penalty kill so successful last season.”

To some extent this is true. Alain Vigneault had a damn good first season as Rangers’ head coach. Still, it’s ridiculously hard to see exactly what Vigneault is looking at here. We could give Glass the benefit of the doubt and say that the Penguins were not the right fit for him. It’s hard to buy that idea when, over the past seven seasons, Glass has a combined 41.4% Corsi Percentage. A span in which he has played for four different NHL teams. A span in which he has played for Jacques Martin, Pete DeBoer, Claude Noel, and Dan Bylsma. Oh, and two seasons under Alain Vigneault in Vancouver. It takes some extremely rose-tinted glasses to genuinely believe that four different teams and five head coaches were simply incorrectly using Tanner Glass. It REALLY doesn’t make sense when you consider that Vigneault was one of those coaches. I don’t see what he can do now to “fix” Glass that he couldn’t do in Vancouver.

“But Adam, who cares? He’s only a fourth liner and if he’s bad he’ll just sit in the press box.”

Well this is a strange stance to have for multiple reasons. The most obvious of which is that only months ago we witnessed the Rangers’ fourth line play such a significant role in a Stanley Cup run. No, fourth liners do not matter as much as others, but they do still matter. They still go out on the ice and impact the game. It makes no sense to excuse poor asset management just because the asset is of less significance than other assets.

The other aspect is that we literally just watched Dorsett get traded and a bunch of players walk away via free agency in part because the Rangers are in a major salary cap crunch. Given how much the Rangers’ budget is being squeezed, dedicating $1.45 million to a guy so he can sit in the press box seems like a pretty wasteful use of cap space. Even if the Rangers sent him to Hartford, they’d still be hit with a $525K cap penalty.

It was a valiant effort from Kevin in attempting to justify the signing. Unfortunately, there’s no sugar coating how horrendous it is. Feel free to have the attitude of, “I’m not going to criticize the guy before he actually plays a game.” It’s a fair stance to take. The goal here isn’t to hate Tanner Glass as a person. I’m sure he’s a really great guy and he’s going to do everything within him to help the Rangers. This isn’t his fault. Instead, this is an evaluation of a decision Sather and Vigneault, who have otherwise made mostly the right choices. This time, all evidence points to them making the wrong decision. As Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In the case of Tanner Glass, it’s insane to think that a player who has been arguably the worst in the NHL over the last five seasons for four different teams and five different head coaches is suddenly going to produce “different results.” Any belief that he will is nothing more than wishful thinking, and it’s the wishful thinking from Sather and Vigneault that have left the Rangers with a major liability whom they are now stuck with for the next three seasons.


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