2018-19 Season Review: Tim Heed provides solid defensive depth
With Erik Karlsson sidelined by injury, the Sharks’ depth on defense was tested.
Despite being 28 years old, Tim Heed’s NHL career is relatively young. Although the Swedish blueliner heard his name called at the 2010 NHL Draft, going 132nd overall to the Anaheim Ducks, he didn’t see North American ice until over six years later, after signing as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks in May of 2016. Heed spent those interim years playing in his native Sweden, highlighted by winning a Swedish championship as a member of the SHL’s Skellefteå AIK in the 2013-14 season and earning SHL Defenseman of the Year honors the following year.
Heed began the North American chapter of his hockey career as many do, in the AHL, suiting up for San Jose’s developmental affiliate 55 times in the 2016-17 season. During that time, he averaged over a point per game, totaling 56 points (14 goals and 42 assists). With the Barracuda qualifying for the postseason, Heed played 15 playoff games and continued his offensive production, tallying three goals and seven assists. The Swedish defender saw just one game of NHL action that year, playing 16 minutes.
In the 2017-18 season, Heed got his first real stint in the NHL, playing in 29 games. His offensive production unsurprisingly decreased against a higher level of competition, but he still tallied 11 points (three goals, eight assists) while posting an impressive 56.0 percent Corsi for (CF%). Over the course of the season, he posted a PDO of 97.6, leading many to believe that Heed’s numbers slightly undersold his potential impact.
Heed’s next opportunity to earn a place on San Jose’s starting six came in the 2018-19 season. Unfortunately for Heed, the Sharks had just acquired an infinitely more dynamic right-handed, offensively minded defenseman — fellow Swede and two-time Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
However, Karlsson ended up missing significant time due to injury, and Heed ended up with his opportunity to slot into the starting lineup after all. In 37 games, he tallied 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) the majority of which came at even-strength (10). His CF% saw regression from the year prior, coming in at 52.6, good for -2 percent relative (CF% rel) to his teammates’ numbers. He continued to see the majority of his shifts in the offensive zone, starting there 60 percent of the time, a career low. Heed’s expected goals for (xGF) and expected goals against (xGA) numbers were identical at 19.8, giving him an expected +/- (E +/-) of 0, a drop-off from his previous season’s +5.9 rating. Heed registered 11 takeaways paired with 23 giveaways, and blocked 31 shots, while his PDO of 105.2 suggests he was the recipient of a noteworthy amount of puck luck.
RAPM Chart (via Evolving Hockey)
Heed’s heavy offensive zone deployment rate makes sense when looking at his Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM) chart; he played well on the power play, but otherwise his most impressive stat is one that becomes decidedly less so when looked at in the context of his usage and possession driving numbers.
Career Summary (via HockeyViz)
Heed has mostly played between the second and third pairing in terms of ice time (his career average is 15:07) in his burgeoning NHL career. Since his debut, his primary points per hour have regressed, recently reaching the lowest rate of his career.
Here, we see Tim Heed’s apt offensive instincts on display as he moved smoothly along the blueline, seamlessly pulled a fast-approaching puck from the wall, and without hesitation, ripped a shot into traffic. If Heed had hesitated getting the puck on his stick, or second guessed himself once he gained possession, the opposing player closing in on him had an excellent chance to influence the play, potentially forcing a turnover or blocking the shot attempt.
What comes next?
After a signing a one-year, $960,000 deal on July 1, Heed will return to San Jose, and with fellow right-handed shot Justin Braun headed to Philadelphia, he will have the best opportunity of his career to secure a starting six role on one of the deepest defense corps in the NHL.
Even if coach Peter DeBoer opts to play recent acquisition Dalton Prout over Heed, and he continues to serve as defensive depth, with all of the uncertainty surrounding the health of Erik Karlsson, it’s likely that he, at the very least, sets a career high for games played in a season.