When Ray Shero brought in Tanner Glass last season, he was looking for a solid 4th line contributor -- someone with some versatility and physical toughness at a relative bargain. In his years with Vancouver and Winnipeg, Glass scored a handful of goals but was mainly known for his physical presence. That puts him in a large pool of potential 4th line players like Craig Adams, Joe Vitale, and Dustin Jeffrey. Glass is making some $400,000-$600,000 more than these players per year, $1.1 million to be exact, so expectations for him are a bit higher.
Whether you agree with the Glass signing as a fan, this is the reality for the Penguins. When you have almost half of the team's salary cap tied-up by five players, Shero needs to try to find some 'lightning in a bottle' while sifting through the 'bargain bin'. Glass' first season with the Pens was during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, and to say he was unspectacular would be a great understatement. His lone goal came on April 11 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bylsma placed Glass on the ice for a power play with the Pens up 5-2, and had the team feed him the puck to try to get him out of his scoreless streak. He broke through, but it was the king of meaningless goals, and it did nothing to jump-start his season. He finished with two points and a -11 +/- rating. It was a failed experiment that left many fans, including myself, wanting the Pens to move ahead with some of the younger forwards and leave Glass out of the mix for the 2013-14 season.
|(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)|
I was fortunate enough to attend the opening night game this season at Consol Energy Center. A few players stood out to me during the game. Aside from the usual suspects like Crosby and Fleury, I was stunned at what I saw out of Tanner Glass. He only had a little less than 10 minutes of ice time, but he made his presence felt. During this game against the Devils, he was actually one of the faster players on the ice. He stole the puck on the penalty kill, from Jaromir Jagr no less (bonus points), and immediately went the other direction for a breakaway scoring chance. He was very physical, both in the hitting department and with a fight against Ryan Clowe. It was the kind of game that could really jump-start a player's season, and I think it has for Tanner Glass.
If you follow my weekly posts, I wrote earlier this season about why I thought this Penguins' team is soft. I detailed them losing a lot of the grit with players like Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy playing elsewhere. The team needed Glass to step up and bring a better effort this year, and so far he has delivered. Through nine games, he already has more points than he did last season, scoring one goal and two assists. He is third in the league in hits with 39, and that is with the leader, Justin Abdelkader, playing two extra games. He also delivered a mind-blowing 10 hits against the interstate rival Philadelphia Flyers last Thursday.
The way Tanner Glass has played so far this season is exactly what Ray Shero was hoping for when he signed him in July 2012. Maybe it just took him a full season to settle into his role, or maybe he realizes he needs to do a lot better in a contract year. Whatever the case, he has solidified his role on the team as a 4th line starter, and is starting to convert fans who previously wrote him off into believers. All of a sudden, a Glass that was completely empty is half full.