Whenever the Hurricanes pop up in NHL talk, you usually hear about captain Eric Staal or pubescent All-Star Jeff Skinner. And for good reason — both players are cornerstones of the team and organization.
A guy you don’t hear much about, but who is one of the best defensive players on the team (if not the best), is Tim Gleason. Gleason signed a four-year extension with the ‘Canes in late January after it was rumored that he would be traded, and there are reasons for that change of heart.
The gritty blueliner was nine points behind the club’s highest-scoring defenseman (Jamie McBain), but nineteen ahead of him in plus-minus. In fact, while the blueline was a combined -60, Gleason’s rating was the best at +12. (Jaroslav Spacek was second with a +4.) He also provided a physical presence with 129 hits during the 2012 season.
The story doesn’t end there. Going deeper into it stats-wise, you can see that Gleason was playing big minutes in the absence of Joni Pitkanen, who only played 30 games last season due to injury. Gleason faced tougher competition than most of the Hurricanes blueline (save for Pitkanen), and while off the ice, the Hurricanes faced a much higher chance of being scored on. (stats here) Basically, he’s no slouch.
Gleason also managed to stay healthy on a team that lost a fair number of man-games to injury. On defense, only he and Bryan Allen played all 82 games, and were two of only four Hurricane players on the team to play a full season.
Lastly, Gleason has proven that he is willing to take a chance on a team that’s still on the bubble. He’s 29, which is middle-aged by NHL standards, and he just missed the ‘Canes Stanley Cup run in 2005-06 (he played for the Kings that season, and came to Raleigh a year later). But he’s been a Hurricane for six seasons, and the fact that he wants to stay is a great sign (he even has a no-trade clause for the first two seasons of his new deal). Because of that, he’ll be part of a revamped team that looks to make a splash in the near future.
General manager Jim Rutherford spoke highly of Gleason when the extension took place, saying that he is “one of our core players” on and off the ice. Indeed, Gleason is an alternate captain and has provided good leadership (both by example on the ice and, apparently, in the locker room) for this ‘Canes team.
All of this combined makes Tim Gleason an important player for Carolina who might not be recognized as much as he should. If the NHL season starts sooner rather than later, expect him to be one of the players quietly leading the way.