Over the past few seasons, Tim Gleason has been the Hurricanes' only bonafide shutdown defenseman. He starts a good majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, is usually matched up against opposing team's top lines and is trusted with duty of keeping these opponents in check. Gleason plays one of the most important roles on the team and that was reinforced when GM Jim Rutherford elected to re-sign him to a four year deal instead of trading him.
How effective was Gleason in this role? Judging him based on raw numbers alone is unfair because he is basically fighting an uphill battle every shift, but some of his underlying numbers from this season are pretty ugly. Gleason may have been a +12, but an on-ice shooting percentage of .932 at even strength helped that cause. The job of a shutdown defenseman is to prevent shots and scoring chances against and even when factoring in his heavy workload, Gleason seemed to be on ice for the opposing team's a little too often.
A breakdown of those underlying numbers is coming after the jump
Tim Gleason Scoring Chances 2011-12
Average TOI: 20:42
Chance% Defense Ranking: 7/8
Chance Diff/60 Ranking: 7/8
Qualcomp Defense Ranking: 1/8
OZ Start%: 39.8%
Scoring Chances by Season Segment
TC = total chances, SC = segment chances, Segment% = scoring chance percentage during segment, Team %= Hurricanes' scoring chance percentage during segment
Scoring Chances by Season Segment Line Graph
Click to enlarge graph
Again, it's tough to evaluate Gleason's overall performance because of the situations he plays in but he had a couple of very rough stretches, two of them coming in the latter half of the season. That obviously had an effect on his overall total which ended up being well below the team average. Gleason's peaks and valleys are pretty extreme when you look at his segment. Before game 41 or so, Gleason was performing at a pretty consistent rate, which looks kind of weak compared to the team average, but he began to pick it up around then. After that one hot stretch, Gleason's play submarined for a good couple of months and then he had one final hot stretch to close out the year.
It is a little weird to see this because I thought Gleason was one of the team's most consistent players this season, but his play may have been streaker than what the eye test indicates. Another interesting observation is that Gleason's hot-stretch in the middle of the year came at around the time he signed that four-year contract.
My personal belief is that Gleason's true talent lies somewhere in between the two extremes and that he is a reliable shutdown defenseman. I would love to see what his numbers look like adjusted for zone starts and quality of competition because I'm sure they would be a lot different. Although, I think it's fair to say that he had a few periods of bad play this year, which is evident when you look at that ugly stretch from game 51-69 where the Canes were controlling only .350 of the even strength chances when he was on the ice. That's just bad no matter what role you are playing in.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Gleason played in all 82 games this season, which is surprising given his style of play. I am willing to bet that he had to fight off more than a few injuries to stay in the lineup and that it effected his play later in the year. Fatigue may have also played a factor and I suggested that Bryan Allen went through the same thing, only his play went on a sharp decline after the half-way point. Gleason's peaks and valleys are much more defined than Allen's. I am going to say that it was likely a combination of both and Gleason being forced to handle virtually all the tough assignments on the defense corps. When you have one defenseman taking over 60% of the defensive zone starts, you know that things are skewed a bit.
Gleason and Allen was Carolina's highly-touted shutdown defense pairing for most of the year, and they fared well for most of the season, but had a big drop-off towards the end. Hence why they are well under 50% now. Something that might jump out is that Allen was a lot better without Gleason than vice versa, but you have to remember that Allen was on the third pairing when he wasn't with Gleason, which meant that he faced much easier competition, too.
A surprise here is that Jamie McBain actually had some moderate success when he was paired with Gleason, showing that McBain was able to not get destroyed as part of a shutdown pairing. However, this could easily be a testament to Gleason's abilities since McBain isn't exactly Glen Wesley in his own zone. Outside of McBain & Allen, Gleason didn't have much success with any other defenseman. Faulk & Harrison in particular were pretty brutal.
As for forwards, the scoring chances were going in Carolina's favor when he was playing with Drayson Bowman, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad LaRose. I think that says a lot more about the forwards than Gleason as a player, because all three played tough minutes and were able to move the puck in the right direction. Meanwhile, you have some other players who couldn't seem to get anything done when playing in front of Gleason. Dwyer, Ruutu, Nodl, Stewart and Jokinen being the most glaring suspects. I am not exactly sure what that says about them other than their capability to play tough minutes.