Tim Gleason is a player who fans do not expect a lot of points from because it isn't in his general job description. He is a shutdown defenseman and his top priorities are to play tough against the opposing team's top forwards, kill penalties and prevent shots and goals against. This is something that he has done relatively well over his career and he's managed to always put up respectable underlying numbers despite the Hurricanes giving him some of the most difficult defensive assignments known to man...or at least on the team.
Anyway, the point here is that Gleason isn't expected to produce much offense since he primarily plays a defensive role but his point production over the last few years hasn't been terrible. No one is going to consider Gleason an offensive threat but he been able to put up at least 15-20 points a season for most of his career, which isn't too bad for a shutdown defenseman. So while Gleason doesn't have much offensive upside, he isn't a black hole in this area and can be somewhat effective at generating shots on goal and producing points, at least compared to others who are used in a similar role. Personally, I think Gleason has a decent shot and he is capable of leading a break-out from time to time but his offensive acument doesn't extend to much more beyond that.
Last year, Gleason played some of the toughest minutes of his career as he was used on the team's shutdown pair with Bryan Allen. The duo started almost 70% of their even strength shifts in the defensive zone, were trusted with handling almost all of the tough minutes among the defense corps and were two of the Hurricanes most relied on penalty killers, as well. Gleason managed to produce one goal and 15 points at even strength in that setting, which is pretty much the norm for him, so it wouldn't surprise many if his point total was around that mark next season.
Gleaosn may see his defensive workload decrease a little next year since the Hurricanes don't really have another bonafide shutdown defenseman to pair him with, but it's more likely that he will stay in a similar role and continue to get the bulk of defensive assignments. Therefore, it's somewhat easy to nail down what kind of point production we should expect from Gleason this year but there are always some factors that could cause any player to have a career season and after the jump, we will look to see if there are nay for Gleason.
Gleason has a pretty defined role on the team in the sense that he's a shutdown defenseman but he still logs a lot of minutes. Only Justin Faulk played more minutes per game at even strength than Gleason and he also led the team in overall time on ice at even strength. This shouldn't surprise too many people, though since Gleason was essentially on the top pairing for most of the year with Joni Pitkanen missing over 50 games due to injury. Gleason might be pushing on 30 but he has shown the last few seasons that he is capable of playing top-pairing minutes and taking on tough competition on top of that. What is even more impressive is that he has managed to take on this workload without missing a game over the last two years, so while he has taken on a lot of mileage the last couple of years, he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.
His ability to produce offensively, however, is another question.
The numbers speak for themselves here. Gleason has never been that much of a goal-scorer, as is the case with most shutdown defensemen. He was able to get three even strength goals in 2009-10 on the back of a higher shooting rate and a 5.6% shooting percentage at even strength but that's about the most you can expect from him unless he gets to play in more offensive situations, which won't happen. Something that you may notice here is that Gleason's shot rate has been on a bit of a decline the last three years and I think this can be attributed to his role. If you look at his offensive zone start percentage at even strength during those same years, you'll see that he was starting more shifts in his own end during that time and it shouldn't be a surprise that his shot rate decreased as a result.
How does this relate to this season, though? Well, there's a good chance that Gleason is still going to play the bulk of defensive minutes on this team but not having another shutdown defenseman to compliment him could mean that he won't be starting as many of his shifts in the defensive zone. This might lead to a shot increase for him but I don't think it will matter too much in the grand scheme of things. Whether or not Gleason scores 1 or 3 goals at even strength isn't going to make much of a difference from a fan's point of view because it's still a very low total overall. Regardless, that's where the expectations for Gleason are at the moment.
ES on-ice Sh%
Gleason has never been much of a goal scorer but he has racked up a decent amount of assists over the years and last year he posted his highest assist total since 2005-06. Gleason always manages to have a respectable amount of assists at even strength because he gets to play behind the top-six from time to time. As a tough minute player, you would think that Gleason would spend a lot of his minutes behind Brandon Sutter & Patrick Dwyer on the shutdown line, but since he plays so many minutes, he also gets to spend a decent amount of time with the top-six. This results in the number of shots and goals he is on-ice for to increase compared to what it would be if he was stuck playing behind the third line.
That being said, Gleason was not on-ice for that many shots per game last season and my guess is that is a direct effect of his zone starts but his on-ice shooting percentage was not terrible, so he ended up being on-ice for more Carolina goals. My thought is that Gleason will be on ice for more shots per game next season because I don't expect him to be pinned into his own zone at the start of 70% of his shifts like he was last year. The Canes don't exactly have the defensive personnel to use that kind of system, so Gleason will be able to breathe a little more this year. At least in my opinion.
Gleason had two assists on the powerplay last year, but there isn't much of a point in projecting PP production from him because he isn't going to get much ice time there. Yes, he has a decent shot from the point and was used there in the past but as of right now, he is probably option #6 on the powerplay as far as defensemen are concerned. Therefore, I don't see him being used much, if at all, with the man advantage unless a slew of injuries happens. Even then he will still be very limited there.
Because Gleason doesn't shoot the puck that much and is relied on more for defense rather than producing points, his final point total could end up being very random compared to previous years. I said in the introduction that odd things happen in the NHL and almost any player can have a career year shooting wise, but even if that happens with Gleason, he'd still finish with five or fewer goals at even strength. Why? Because he shoots the puck less often than most players.
That being said, I am projecting Gleason to shoot the puck more in this coming season because of the factors I mentioned earlier, but I only have him increasing from 2.3 ESSOG/60 to something like 2.8 ESSOG/60. This would give him 67 even strength shots in an 82 game season. Gleason's average shooting percentage over the last five years is 2.6%, which would give him 1-2 even strength goals on the year if he shoots at that rate this year. If he matches his career high, he would end up with 3-4 goals in an 82 game season, so his goal total will end up being pretty low unless he is able to strike gold in terms of shooting luck.
As for the amount of shots he is on-ice for, I have that increasing from 27.24 SF/60 to 29.2 because I see him getting relatively easier minutes with better teammates this year. He is still going to play tough minutes, but the Canes aren't going to make him start as many shifts in the defensive zone. This should lead to Gleason being on ice for more shots than he was last year. His offensive skillset still isn't that great, but I see the Canes being a better possession team than they were last year thanks to the upgrades at forward, and Gleason is one of the players who will end up benefiting from it.
Will this show up in his assist total, though? A little, but Gleason's numbers aren't going to be much different from what they were in the past. It's unknown how the Canes will shoot as a team with him on the ice next year, but his average even strength on-ice shooting percentage over the last five years was 8.07%, so that is worth taking into consideration. If the Canes shoot at around 8% with Gleason on the ice next season, that would put him on ice for about 54 goals in an 82 game season. Gleason has recorded an assist on 23.9% of the even strength goals he was on-ice for over the last five years, so if that trend continues he would finish the year with 12-13 even strength assists in an 82 game season.
Gleason's special teams production is a crapshoot because he isn't going to get much powerplay time and shorthanded point totals are often very random. He will likely end up with 0-5 special teams points on the year, though.
82 Game Projection
I have Gleason finishing with three fewer points than what he had last year, and this largely because I'm not projecting much special teams production from him for reasons mentioned earlier. It's just too random to predict. This would be Gleason's lowest point total since 2008-09, but it isn't a huge drop off since his highest point total during that time period was 19 in the 2009-10 season. Really, you can count on Gleason to put up anywhere from 10-20 points in a given year because he gets enough ice time and isn't completely helpless offensively. I wouldn't expect much more than that from him, though...and that's fine.