Friday, January 3, 2014

What to Expect from Tim Gleason

tim gleason leafs trade
On the day of the Winter Classic the Leafs made a trade, consummating the oft-talked about John-Michael Liles for Tim Gleason swap with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The deal is a lateral move, both teams dealing overpriced defenders with two additional years on their contracts, but one in which the two players might provide better results with a change of scenery.

Liles couldn't crack the lineup with any consistency in Toronto this season, spending most of his time with the Marlies or stuck watching from the press box as either Mark Fraser or Paul Ranger took his spot in the lineup. He didn't really ever get a fair chance under Randy Carlyle, and could provide the Hurricanes with a decent offensive option in their bottom pair.

For the an additional $225,000 in cap space and prospect Dennis Robertson (who you haven't heard of before now and in all likelihood never will again), the Leafs get a defender who provides them with some toughness and grit and is a few years younger. But unlike last season's deal for Ryan O'Byrne (who had similar traits), Gleason could actually provided Toronto with quality minutes.

Before this season, the Hurricanes used Gleason as their primary shutdown defender, a role he assumed since 2008-09. Even as recently as 2011-12 he was still performing fairly well in that role, although last season there was a noticeable drop in his game, according to the Shutdown Line, a Hurricanes blog.

Gleason hasn't performed any better this season, battling a number of injuries along the way, the most concerning of which was a concussion suffered in a preseason fight. His mobility has been hampered by a lower-body injury and he has lost his position as the team's shutdown defender. The Carolina coaching staff has used him primarily as a third-pairing defender with a variety of partners. In that role he has performed about as well as Mike Komisarek. Woof.

From Toronto's point of view, maybe with some health Gleason can get back to a top-4 role and face tougher competition, easing the burden on Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson. In a perfect world, Gleason closer resembles his 2011-12 form, pairs with Phaneuf on the top line and Gunnarsson drops down and gives some defensive stability to the second pair. However, shutdown defenders don't tend to age well, as the wear and tear of blocking shots and taking the body catches up with them quickly. If Gleason can't regain his previous form, the Leafs are stuck with a bottom pairing defender for another two years, like they were with Liles, except at a greater cost.

The Leafs are so poor defensively they can afford to take a chance on Gleason, especially as the cost above Liles is so small. He only becomes a problem if Carlyle insists on playing him over Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly.

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