The playoffs began with six former Winnipeg Jets suiting up. Of those six former Jets, Montreal’s Al Montoya, Boston’s Drew Stafford, Chicago’s Johnny Oduya and Calgary’s Michael Frolik were eliminated in the first round and their seasons subsequently ended. The two former Jets that remain are New York’s Tanner Glass and Pittsburgh’s Ron Hainsey.
Glass and Hainsey are not the most exhilarating duo to hit the ice surface this spring for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, both players have their own unique journey of how they got there. Glass dressed in 78 games for the Jets in his one season spent in Winnipeg while Hainsey dressed in 103 games with the Jets and 243 games with the Atlanta Thrashers, giving him a total of 346 games in the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization.
While Glass’s time in Winnipeg was short lived, his legacy left an unexpectedly large impression on the city. Glass was featured on the Jets’ extremely effective fourth line in the 2011-12 season including center Jim Slater and pending unrestricted free agent Chris Thorburn, who spent the season with the Jets. Glass established career highs in games (78), goals (five), assists (11) and points (16) with the Jets while continuing his physical presence with seven fights and 246 hits (which ranked in the top 10 in the league).
The Regina, SK native only dressed for 11 regular season games with the Rangers this season, spending the majority of the season in the American Hockey League (AHL). After finishing last season with the Rangers’ farm team (the Hartford Wolf Pack) and an early demotion this season, it appeared he was in the twilight of his NHL career. Glass received special instructions from Rangers brass that he needed to just play his game in the AHL to get back on the right level. He needed to stop thinking about the next time he would be with the big club and instead take it game by game in Hartford. Glass proceeded to set an AHL career-high 15 points and led the team in penalty minutes with 86.
With the Rangers facing a bulked up Montreal Canadiens squad which included the likes of Steve Ott, Andreas Martinsen and Dwight King, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault decided he needed Glass’s 63 career games of playoff experience and 73 career fights’ (regular season and playoffs) worth of assertiveness.
Fans were outraged by the decision to play Glass over rookie sensation Pavel Buchnevich, who notched 20 points in just 41 games this season. Glass proved Vigneault correct as he potted the first goal of the playoffs for the Rangers in a game in which they beat the Canadiens 2-0. Glass only dressed in three of the six games the Rangers needed to knock off the Atlantic Division champion, but did his job when he was required.
When the season began it appeared Hainsey, a veteran of 907 regular season games, would spend yet another year on the outside looking into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a mediocre Carolina Hurricanes team (fourth-worst team in the league on Feb. 23, the day of the trade). Despite all of his experience, Hainsey had never dressed in a playoff game before. That is until former Hurricanes and current Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford wanted a solid defender he was familiar with, and Hainsey fit the bill.
Pittsburgh followed up last summer’s Stanley Cup with a huge start to this season. When the Penguins acquired the former 13th overall pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, they were the third-best team in the league. The addition of Hainsey was followed by a move that acquired Mark Streit as well. These two moves proved crucial given that the Penguins lost star defenseman Kris Letang for the rest of the season with a neck injury, not to mention Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta suffering injuries of their own. The trio of impaired defenders missed a combined total of 94 games.
Jets fans may be knocking themselves seeing that the organization essentially felt Mark Stuart would be a better fit at that juncture than Hainsey, and now Stuart is struggling to keep an NHL career while Hainsey is contributing to a Cup run. One stat that may help Jets fans forget: after the Hainsey deal, Carolina finished the season with the sixth-best record in the league in that time (12-7-7 for 31 points). Hainsey and the Penguins will be facing the Stanley Cup-favourite Washington Capitals in round two, while Glass and the Rangers will face the underdog Ottawa Senators.
#Pens D Ron Hainsey's path to his first NHL playoff goal went through 911 games and 6 teams
— Ashley Chase (@AshleyChaseTV) April 20, 2017