There were plenty of disappointed people when Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason wasn't named to Team USA's Olympic roster Jan. 1 following the Winter Classic in Boston. Those in the Carolina organization were pulling for No. 6. The fans were hoping one of the RBC Center's favorites would pull on the red, white and blue sweater in Vancouver.
Alas, Gleason was not selected. To twist the knife, underperforming Kings blueliner Jack Johnson — the player Gleason was traded for at the start of the 2006-07 season — did make the grade and earned a spot on the American team.
Disappointing? For sure — but not shocking. While it's easy to make a case for Gleason over Johnson or others on the roster, there are also solid arguments for all the players who made the cut. Even Brian Burke, the GM of the Toronto of Maple Leafs and the architect of the Team USA roster who left Gleason off the team, said in an interview with Chuck Kaiton that Gleason is "very much alive" if injuries should open up a spot on defense.
So the people who know hockey — including at least two GMs who have won Stanley Cups in recent years — know what Gleason brings to the table. But that doesn't mean everyone does. Take The Hockey News' Edward Fraser, for example.
This isn't meant to be an attack of Fraser's article on the magazine's site, which lists a B-Team for the United States — a complete second roster that somehow, someway omitted Gleason. It's more about the general lack of appreciation there is for Gleason around the league. Zach Bogosian, Matt Carle, Andy Greene, Ron Hainsey, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Whitney and Keith Yandle are all decent choices for this second squad.
But right here, right now, none are better than Gleason. Gleason doesn't have the offensive skill of Whitney and Yandle, the size of Hainsey, or the rags-to-riches story of Scuderi or Greene. He wasn't part of the perhaps the best defenseman draft class ever like Bogosian, or have a Hall of Fame partner like Carle does.
Instead, most of what he does will not show up in score sheets and headlines — heart, determination, toughness, loyalty.
Sure, sometimes they do. Look no further than the five penalty minutes he took fighting Daniel Carcillo early in the season following a dirty hit by the Flyers winger on Ray Whitney, or the shorthanded goal he registered after returning from some serious needlework to force overtime against division foe Washington. But for the most part, Gleason's contributions don't find their way onto his profile page. And because of that, he's often under appreciated — hell, flat-out forgotten — when people outside of Raleigh talk about the up-and-coming blueliners in the game.
Such is the life of a heart-and-soul player, a guy who always puts the "we" ahead of the "me." Like Glen Wesley — the longtime Hurricanes defenseman who served as a mentor to Gleason when he arrived from Los Angeles — Carolina's No. 6 is relegated to success in the shadows instead of the spotlight.
And he seems fine with that. But I'm not.
Gleason deserves the recognition. As far as I'm concerned, he's setting himself up to be this generation's Jason Smith. Maybe he'll get a shot to represent the United States next month in Vancouver, and perhaps then he'll get more credit for all he brings to the Hurricanes. But for now, let's at least get him on the B-Team, OK Edward?