Why did the Carolina Hurricanes give the "A"'s to Tim Gleason and Brandon Sutter? Several people repeated the same answer. It's because of the way they play the game.
Sutter is only 21 years old, but Coach Paul Maurice said that age wasn't a factor in his consideration.
"If you take on ice performance in terms of playing the all around game we hope all of our players play, Brandon is ahead of the curve." Maurice went on. "Age is not an issue. We know about the character. And he will learn and grow into this as well. This is a job and a role that he's going to be able to fill for a lot of years."
Eric Staal said much of the same thing. "You watch him every game and every practice, and he's doing the right things, and other guys see that. His leadership comes with his play."
Maurice was asked about other possible choices, but bottom line, the coaching staff was looking for a long term placement.
"We didn't feel that we could make a bad choice," the coach said. "Corvo, Cole, LaRose, Pitkanen and some of the other leaders on the ice who play so many minutes. We could have gone with any of them and we would have been fine. But a big part of it was continuity and we think that these two guys will be here for a very long time."
The coach then talked about what Tim Gleason brings to the table.
"It's nice to have a guy who has a physical presence in the locker room." Maurice elaborated. "It's easy for a skilled guy to stand up and say, let's get more physical out there. But when Timmy Gleason says it, he's leading with it. So leading by example is something we looked at with Timmy."
I asked fellow defenseman Brett Carson how he felt about the choice and the usually quiet blueliner wasn't shy sharing his opinion.
"Last year coming up as a young guy, "Glease" was someone right away you could look up to. He comes to the rink every day. There's no fooling around, he's serious every day." Carson continued. "But whenever you think of him being a leader, you think of that game in Washington, when he took that puck to the face. He went in and got stitched up and came back, then scored the tying goal. Most guys probably wouldn't have played through that. He has character that everybody can look up to as a role model."
Gleason admitted that he was indeed "serious". As a matter of fact, he said some of the players called him "Grouchy".
"I just come to play and do my job," said Gleason. "I might not look like the happiest guy on the ice, but that's not my problem, that's the other guy's problem. I just want to play my game consistently. I come to the rink and maybe one guy might look up to me, and I don't even know if that's true. But whoever wants to follow can follow."
When asked what the "A" meant to him, Gleason responded, "It's a good opportunity for myself and it's an honor. But I'm not going to change anything I do. I'm going to be myself, and try to do what I need to do on the ice, consistently."
Spoken like a true leader.