Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck
Hard to play against, tough customer, character guy: those were some of the hockey superlatives thrown around by Barry Trotz and his players when asked about Tim Gleason, the team’s newly acquired D-man.
“He’ll keep people honest,” Trotz told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “You want to take a shot at Greenie, he can back it up.”
Yep, despite whatever my zany Russian political science professor and Some People on the Internet say, Mike Green isn’t going anywhere.
However, Green, for all his brilliant offensive skills, is no longer a top pairing, minute-chewing defenseman. This year, Green’s been placed on the third pairing, either with Jack Hillen, who was sent, along with a fourth round pick, to Carolina in exchange for Gleason.
Hillen had supplanted rookie Nate Schmidt on the Green pairing after Schmidt started getting benched for… well, Trotz never did really give us a good answer to that question. Nevertheless, Schmidt suffered a nasty upper-body injury in Hershey and got taken out the picture for a while. While the perpetually happy Schmidt is nearing a return, the Caps have decided to go in a different direction for Green’s partner.
To contrast to Green’s skill game, Gleason, 32 and on the final year of his contract, is set to be a guard dog on the third pairing. Gleason looks to be called upon to be Green’s on-ice protector or, if you’re versed in Capitals doublespeak, to provide “balance” to the pairing. Green, as we all know, has been oft-injured in his career. He’s better off focusing his time on passing the puck to Alex Ovechkin on the power play than getting concussion testing in the locker room. Then again, Nate Schmidt is also better at the hockey parts of the game than Gleason, but to each his own.
“If he slides in playing with Greenie there,” defenseman Karl Alzner said of Gleason, “that’s a really good guy to play with that can protect a high-valued target.”
Naturally, the former Norris Trophy finalist doesn’t think he needs anyone to save his butt. Nevertheless, Green was effusive towards Gleason.
“I don’t know if I need protection, but a solid, big guy that can clear the front of the net, play in front of the D-zone,” Green said Saturday.
Gleason’s play does tell to get under the skin of his opponents. In 2009, Alex Ovechkin took a leaping run at the Carolina defender, earning him a two game suspension. But that was more than five years ago.
“It’s funny how things work,” Gleason told reporters by phone from an airport terminal. Seventy-two hours after playing the Washington Capitals, Gleason will take the ice with them on Sunday.
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