As the great Talking Head David Byrne once said, “Patience is a virtue, but I don’t have the time.” Chances are Byrne’s words probably resonate among Nashville Predators fans unhappy with the way John Hynes has handled some of his younger players amidst the team’s lackluster start.
Front and center of that debate is Cody Glass. We know Glass’s story by heart at this point: a former sixth-overall pick whose playing time and development in Vegas fell victim to the Golden Knights’ quest to spend big to become immediate contenders. Preds fans expected big things from Glass in 2021-22, but were somewhat surprised and disappointed when he was optioned to Milwaukee after two mere games.
The message from the Preds’ braintrust was clear: “We’re going to be patient. We’re not going to play a player if he’s not ready.”
At that point, fair enough... and to the Preds’ credit, that plan worked. Glass became a force in Milwaukee, scoring 62 points in 66 games, one of the best individual scoring seasons the Ads had seen in years. More importantly, however, was the development of Glass’s overall game. He returned to Nashville late in the season looking more engaged in the play at both ends of the ice: responsible defensively, patient offensively, and just aggressive enough at the right opportunities.
Glass followed that up with an impressive training camp, excelling in whatever role John Hynes asked him to play in that particular preseason game. And when Glass made the team, the clip of which became a viral “feel-good” moment across the hockey community, it seemed like he had officially earned his way into being a prominent piece of the Preds’ 2022-23 lineup.
Or so we thought.
Glass played in both games of the NHL Global Series, but despite getting an assist in the opening game, didn’t feature prominently, and only had 14 total shifts in the second game. He spent the next handful of games either as a healthy scratch or as a sparsely-used fourth-liner, never playing more than 12:02 in a game, yet being one of the Predators’ most effective offensive drivers whenever he was on the ice.
It looked like, finally, Glass would get a shot at doing more against the St. Louis Blues at the end of last month. Glass was promoted to the second line to center Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That opportunity lasted less than an entire game. Hynes shuffled the lines midway through the second period, and Glass spent all but one shift on the bench in the third period.
When asked why Glass had such a short leash in the top six, Hynes said “The moment got the best of him.”
“It’s unfortunate. The first shift, [Glass] got scored on and kind of lost his center. We took him off, put him right back out in an offensive zone faceoff, and I just thought he was playing like he didn’t want to make a mistake. He looked a little bit like the pressure of playing in that top six affected him a bit.
Coming into the third period with a 3-2 lead, we felt that there were some other players that were really having some good games and it was a game. Like we talked about, you gotta find a way to win that hockey game, and so we didn’t give him a lot of ice time in the third.”
John Hynes on Cody Glass, via Emma Lingan (@emma_lingan)
On one hand, sure, it’s perfectly fine for a head coach to pull a player that he doesn’t think is having an effective game in the midst of a tight contest. On the other hand, Hynes’s leash for Glass seemed particularly short, especially considering he’s given other players — like Jordan Gross and Cole Smith — opportunities to play themselves out of slow starts. Gross and Smith each rebounded with solid performances.
Instead, Glass found himself back in the press box two games later.
That takes us to Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche. Glass found his way back into the lineup after five games on the bench. Glass teamed up with Eeli Tolvanen and Cole Smith, and... guess what???... he helped set up a great goal to give the Preds a 1-0 lead early!
It was exactly what Hynes had asked of Glass, a strong start early against a strong opponent. As Willy Daunic said in the clip, Glass (and Tolvanen) used “what they bring to the table” to make a big play.
By Hynes’s own standards, that should have been enough for Glass to get more shifts as the game progressed.
And yet, Glass was virtually non-existent late in the game. He finished the Colorado game with just 9:38 of ice time and just 13 shifts. His line finished with a 65.17 xGF%, which against a team that scored 5 goals, is overall solid.
So what’s the deal here?
There are multiple levels of frustration here from a fan’s perspective. The first, and perhaps the biggest one, is the lack of meaningful opportunities Glass is getting. He doesn’t need to be in a top-six role, but he should factor into Hynes’s gameplan somewhere. As Phil Tomasino proved last year (THAT’S a whole separate conversation, by the way), you don’t have to be getting 18 minutes a night to be an impact player, you just need to be put in situations where you can use your talents to change the game. Glass has that ability, as he’s proven multiple times this season — as recently as last night.
However, there seems to be frequent discrepancy between Glass’s talents and the “identity” John Hynes wants him to embody. We’ve talked before about Hynes sorting lines by the style of play he wants that line to embody. The downside of that is that it leaves players like Glass (and Tolvanen) pigeon-holed. More often than not lately, Glass has been relegated to the press box simply because his style of play doesn’t fit what Hynes wants from his depth lines.
The other stems from Hynes’s “moment got the best of him” comment. At some point, you’ve got to give players chances to respond to their mistakes. The frustrating part is that Hynes has given this freedom to several other players on the roster, most of whom are in the bottom six like Glass, and many of whom have now gotten MULTIPLE opportunities to play themselves out of a poor run of play. It’s not unfair to question why Glass has seemingly not received these same chances, and has struggled to be on the ice for more than a few games at a time.
At this point, we don’t know if there’s something in Glass’s game that makes Hynes hesitant to play him consistently, or if he’s just being extra cautious and patient with his development. But either way, the frequent “play a few games, sit a few games” strategy isn’t going to allow Glass to showcase what he can do for the Predators. Something is going to eventually have to give; the Preds are either going to have to conclude Glass is one of their twelve best forwards and find a way to utilize his talent in every game, or they’re going to have to conclude he’s not ready for that spot.
If he’s not ready? Well... that’s a tough situation. Glass isn’t waiver exempt, and there are plenty of up-and-coming teams that would jump at the chance to try and add a former top-six pick with a cheap contract on their roster. The Preds clearly don’t want that to happen, and they clearly still see Glass as a valuable piece. But sooner or later, they have to show they’re all in on Glass as a player.