Lacing Up: The "Big" Addition
In remembrance of the late Ashley Gallant, originator of “Lacing Up,” Matt Paul, Joshua Neal, and, at times, guest writers will hold a week-long email discussion, which will be published on FF Monday mornings. If you have any topics you would like to see us discuss, or if you would like to be a guest in our series, please let us know through the comments section below or on our Contact page, linked at the top of FF.
Joshua Neal: As Penguin fans anxiously awaited July 1st and the beginning of Free Agency, large names loomed on our minds. General Manager Ray Shero, never afraid to stir the pot, had just traded Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek’s large contracts to new towns. The Penguins had money to spend, and Shero is the kind of guy who is not afraid to spend it as long as he feels he’s getting his money’s worth. So with about $10 million in cap space, many of us were in the very least caught off guard when the first name that began to trickle down was Unrestricted Free Agent Tanner Glass, who in 2011 played Left Wing with the Winnipeg Jets. Matt, I’m sure this was a bit of a surprise to you that this was our first move of the always interesting July 1st hockey holiday. But after learning that Glass would be joining the Penguins, could you tell me your first reactions and impressions on the move?
Matt Paul: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Tanner Glass. One of these names is not like the other. One of these names does not belong. The name: Glass. While Penguin fans were holding their breathe not just for Parise, but for Parise AND Suter, they were treated with Glass. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice player to have, and a fine, younger replacement for Arron Asham. But he’s not Parise or Suter — so logically, my initial reaction was disappointment. But then I thought about it and realized how important it is for this team to regain it’s tough persona. That team toughness that was so critical in the two years that led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals has been hard to find of late. And having one-dimensional toughness is more harmful than good, which is why Steve McIntyre has found a permanent home in Wilkes-Barre, not Pittsburgh. All that said, isn’t it a bit troubling that a tough-guy fourth liner’s last name is Glass? I think I’d feel a lot better about this signing if his name was, say Iron or Steel. I kid.
Josh: It’s funny that you mention it, because I always thought “Glass” was a bit of a fitting name for Tanner, being that he spends a lot of his time putting opponents into it. There’s definitely not a question about the tough game he brings to the ice. He will fight, but he is more than a fighter. The comparisons being drawn to Asham and McIntyre are natural, being that they were the “tough guy” signings of the past few years, but if I were to say that Glass was “replacing” any Penguin persona from the Stanley Cup Finals years, I would say that his game is most similar to a Mike Rupp. As you mentioned, Asham and McIntyre were more inclined to be one-dimensionally tough. Glass is a player who will fight, but seems to be a bit more cerebral about the game of hockey. For a guy who usually sits around the top ten in the league in hits (as fantasy hockey freaks are well aware) Glass is not a name you frequently hear from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. So Matt, if we’ve got ourselves the hard-hitting, intimidating forechecker we think we’ve got, what effects do you see this having on the Penguins system as a whole? Do you see an overarching theme in Shero’s moves this offseason?
Matt: Nice comparison of Glass to Rupp. It’s a thought that briefly crossed my mind, but never really amounted to much more. I suppose I just have the natural inclination to use a more convenient comparison of the player whose roster spot he will fill. Glass, by no means is one-dimensional, which will serve only to benefit the Penguins. But, that being said, one player, especially a fourth liner, won’t turn a smallish/softish team into the rough and tumble group we became accustomed to early in Shero’s tenure as GM. With the likes of Craig Adams and Joe Vitale on the fourth line with Glass, the opposition certainly will take a beating, but it should be pointed out the Vitale is on the smaller size and Adams is on the older side. Neither is or should be considered a bruiser. In order to change the system or the culture, Shero needs to make a few more moves. That said, without having played any games, and with a roster that essentially is set, it’s difficult to say who could/should go to make room for said bruiser(s).
Josh: Good point to make. The Penguins are certainly on the smallish side, especially as we move down the line progression. I think that putting too much stock in Glass individually may be a bit of a fallacy, but if his arrival in Pittsburgh is to be an indication of the direction in which Shero is looking with his personnel and Bylsma is looking with his system, we may be melding elements of Therrien’s defensive style with Bylsma’s north-and-south heavy forechecking style. The jury will be out until we see what Shero does with this cap space (that may be larger or smaller, depending on the terms of whatever new CBA is agreed upon), but I’m a huge proponent of bringing some size and intimidation. Intimidation is not goonery, though. Matt, any last words regarding the (physically) biggest new addition to the Penguin lineup?
Matt: Not really, Josh. While Glass clearly (poor pun intended) will be a nice addition to the fourth line and likely will become a fan favorite, there’s just not that much else to discuss. Let’s just hope his addition is the start of a trend and the return of Shero’s original plan of having a team that was physically tough to play against. By the end of last season, the Penguins looked too much like the Capitals, and as much as it pains me to say this, not enough like the Flyers. There is a happy medium somewhere in there, and I feel like Shero once struck that balance, but has since shifted his focus. Glass could be a sign that he’s once again looking for that balance. So, with all that said, I think I’m spent. Until next week, when we discuss the interesting (and oft-forgotten) trade and sign of Tomas Vokoun…