Garrison signs with Canucks, is right man for the job

When Sami Salo signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Canucks fans collectively freaked out for about two-and-a-half hours. I saw many cursing Mike Gillis’s name, calling for him to be fired, and lamenting in the streets in sackcloth and ashes. Then Aaron Rome signed with the Dallas Stars and some fans began to wonder if the Canucks would have any defencemen at all next season or whether the plan was to keep Roberto Luongo not as a backup to Cory Schneider but as a shot-blocking specialist on defence.

That’s the problem with the frenzy of July 1st: everyone expects something instantaneous. When the Canucks didn’t sign any free agents as soon as the sun rose and the rooster crowed, the impatience of the social media generation shone through. Not only was the sky falling, but dogs were also marrying cats. The Fraser River turned to blood, frogs rained down from the sky, and a swarm of locusts invaded downtown Vancouver and immediately began complaining about the bike lanes.

It was pandemonium. It was chaos. It was the apocalypse.

Then the Canucks signed Jason Garrison and everyone calmed the heck down.

Garrison is coming off a career year with the Florida Panthers, scoring 16 goals and 17 assists in 77 games. He finished third amongst NHL defencemen in goals behind Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber and second in powerplay goals. Garrison is consistent, great positionally, and has a bomb of a slap shot from the point. After Ryan Suter, Garrison was right alongside Matt Carle as the best defencemen on the market.

There were rumours masquerading as reports that Garrison was looking for $6.5 million. While that turned out to be an exaggeration, Bob McKenzie confirmed after the fact that Garrison was trying to get “Wideman money,” referring to the $5.25 million contract Dennis Wideman received from the Calgary Flames. Instead, Gillis managed to get him signed at the same cap hit as Kevin Bieksa, giving him a 6-year, $27.6 million deal for a $4.6 million cap hit.

There are a number of people sceptical about this deal, saying that Garrison has just one good year in the NHL. Not true: Garrison has had two good years in the NHL, just in two different roles.

Two seasons ago, he partnered with Mike Weaver (remember him?) to form one of the league’s most underrated shutdown pairs. Garrison led the Panthers in ice time during a season when they were badly outscored and started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone against tough competition, yet finished just minus-2 and had solid underlying possession numbers. Only two players who spent the entire season with the Panthers finished with a positive plus/minus rating that year.

That season, James Mirtle had Garrison pegged as the league’s second-best defensive defenceman. The player who was first? None other than Dan Hamhuis.

Garrison flourished offensively last season alongside Brian Campbell – specifically, his right side. The Canucks have a hole to fill on the right side of their own All-Star offensive defenceman, Alex Edler. Garrison certainly isn’t Christian Ehrhoff – his career-high in points came about due to some unsustainably high percentages – but that’s a good thing. Unlike Ehrhoff, Garrison is defensively responsible, versatile, and can play in all situations.

Ultimately, Garrison is more Hamhuis than he is Ehrhoff, and if Garrison can do for Edler what Hamhuis has done for Bieksa, Canucks fans are going to be very, very happy with this signing.

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30 comments

  1. Joel
    July 2, 2012

    I think Hamhuis is a pretty good comparison, based on his stats and all the videos I’ve seen of Garrison. (Since his name popped up weeks ago and we didn’t have any Canucks hockey to watch, I had plenty of time to scan Youtube clips of potential new Canucks)

    Solid defensively, sees the ice well, decent wheels and has a heavy shot.

    But the funniest criticism is that his season last year is a mirage because Campbell was setting him up for one-timers.

    Funny, I know its been a season since we last saw Campbell in the Hawks/Canucks wars, but I think I have a pretty good handle on his game skill.

    Edler < Campbell in pure passing ability. Sure, but Edler isn't the one quarterbacking the power play.

    The people who bring up the lack of Campbell feeding Garrison for the one-timer neglect to take it into account the Sedins, who are the ones cycling on the half boards and running the PP.

    Now if you consider Henrik/Daniel as the replacements for Campbell in terms of setting up Garrison for one timers on the PP… well, that doesn't sound like a drop-off, does it?

    And really, 4.6 is nothing for a guy who can put up even 20 points and play a solid two way game. Aside from Wideman (since Calgary's brain trust is certifiably insane) look at what guys like Bryan Allen got yesterday. Or look at the 5.5-6 mil Matt Carle will get once Suter signs his 8 mil contract.

    Or hell, look at the 3.75 Sami Salo is getting on a multi-year deal with Tampa. If Gillis had given Salo that contract, he'd have had an uprising amongst the fans as well, who would be roasting him for giving sentimental contracts instead of improving the team.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      July 2, 2012

      I think this was a good signing. But the fact is, and you’ve actually mentioned it, the Canucks still don’t really have any good puck-moving defencemen. Setting up the power play one-timer is only one aspect of that role, but at 5-on-5, the top line can really benefit from someone who can make a great first pass, jump into the rush, beat a forechecker 1-on-1, etc. Ehrhoff was a perfect example of a guy who was good at this aspect of the game, and I think the Canucks missed that element a fair bit last season. Edler has some of those characteristics, but can also be streaky and mistake-prone (see passes, drop). If having a steady partner like Garrison is what Edler needs to play with a little more confidence and push that side of his game more, then good. But I remain worried that the team is still missing a guy that can really push the offence forward from the blueline.

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      • Joel
        July 2, 2012

        Bit of a side note, but I don’t blame Edler for the drop-pass entry on the PP.

        I put that one squarely on the coaches. If the coaches weren’t telling them to do it, I don’t think Edler and Henrik keep it up when it was getting picked off for months at a time.

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  2. BBoone
    July 2, 2012

    Not only is the point about the year before last well taken but one cannot underestimate the effect of a player’s motivation to succeed. Jason Garrison is a BC born player who wants to play for the Canucks. This one year wonder stuff is absurd. Canuck fans can also look forward to a good year from Keith Ballard who will start the season fit and ready to play without a summer of recovery or confusion. Booth as well I suspect although I hope he is ” on notice” because of that disgusting bear bating character revelation. I’m big time with the crowd that wants Shane Doan as a Canuck for the right price and see no hurry to move Roberto Luongo. He is too professional not to play hard in a shared role until a trade can be made that is right for both him and the Canucks.

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    • TheGilchy
      July 2, 2012

      I agree with this, outsider the Booth comment. Why should his off-ice interests have anything to do with the team?

      I’ve met Garrison, and am excited about watching him on the Canucks. Quality guy, quality player.

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      • BBoone
        July 2, 2012

        To think the average fan in Vancouver and across Canada would consider bear bating is an acceptable and “manly” off ice interest bespeaks to a real lack of awareness by Booth. The hockey fans in Vancouver may not let him forget that. Whether we like it or not professional athletes are role models and if my children were of an age where they could be influenced by such things I would have an issue to deal with and feel that all in all, it would be better if Booth was not a Canuck.

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  3. REM
    July 2, 2012

    The other thing that shoudl be pointed out to the “one hit wonder” crowd is a comparison to Sami Salo. We acquired him 10 years ago this September and when he came here he was a little bit older and had less of a resume than Garrison. That worked out pretty well, and I expect this is going ot work out equally well.

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  4. Metaxa
    July 2, 2012

    Plus this Mr. Garrison is a pretty good looking guy.

    I’m confident that will help in any number of areas.

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  5. the real bob
    July 2, 2012

    Garrison is a good hitter with a hard slap shot. Good pick up but I’ll miss Salo.

    Watching his highlights, he’s fought Malholtra which is funny cause they’re now teammates.

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  6. Frank N.
    July 2, 2012

    Seems like a good deal for the Canucks and him. Really, who cares whether he puts up 25 or 35 points a year? As long as he is defensively sounds and “steadies” Edler, we gain more than just 10 points scored as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (combined points, less goals against, more possession and better at driving play).

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  7. JDM
    July 2, 2012

    People calling one-year-wonder seem to miss the point that his two good years are the result of things that are not likely to go away – he isn’t likely to forget how to play sound positional defense, and he isn’t likely to forget how to take slap shots. Players like Wideman and Ballard are one-dimensional; if their offensive game stops clicking all that’s left is a defensive liability. Not the case with Garrison. Even though a return to the 15 goal mark is unlikely, such a return is unnecessary to justify this signing.

    Now on to the more important discussion for Canuck fans: his nickname. Does he wear number 52 with the Canucks or take up Salo’s number 6? I for one am torn between his existing “G52 Bomber” nickname and the potential for “Like a G6″.

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    • Joel
      July 2, 2012

      He said on Team 1040 today he wants to stay with #52. Something along the lines of using a scrub number will help remind him to play his best every time he puts on the jersey. A bit hokey, but if it helps him stay focused, go for it.

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  8. Mo
    July 2, 2012

    I’m a little confused about the “one year wonder” too – despite his age, he’s only been in the NHL 2 years!! First year- possibly the league’s second best defensive defenseman, Second year- a Panther record-setting offensive defenseman. How can anyone complain about this? To me, it looks more like 2 out of 2, and hopefully at least 6 more!

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  9. Canuck Jeet
    July 2, 2012

    A Canuck fan was good enough to put all of Garrison’s 16 goes into a package, have a look:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v93pCQugsc8

    I like:

    1) Shot. Obviously (those are mostly solid, not GREAT, feeds from Campbell and Sedin passing > Campbell) so Canucks gain a right-side (left-handed) shot from the point for the power play, something that they’ve been lacking

    2) Defensive Ability. His numbers from two years ago indicate that he is sound defensively and I agree with the comments above, if he covers for Edler when needed and Edler regains his swagger, then the sum is greater than the parts

    3) Size

    4) Deal. Seems fair to below market value. Inflation is setting in (just look at Salo’s new deal) yet GMMG still managed to get a “reasonable” deal for the 3rd highest goal scoring D. Although, the length of the deal and Garrison’s relatively late-blooming makes me a bit nervous, but not as nervous as if he hadn’t been signed and we were missing a top 4 D (Ballard can still be that player but now we can have a 4th D playing on the3rd pairing). Plus, a sought after free agent (recall Hamhuis) once again chooses Canucks. (P.S. Schultz not withstanding, but can you really blame him for picking a group of top picks around his age? Plus, he gets to make mistakes on D which will be overlooked and not highlighted as they would be on a cup contender).

    Solid move, now let’s go get that 2nd line winger.

    GCG!

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  10. Winsy
    July 2, 2012

    Thank you so much for this article! It makes me feel SO much better about signing Garrison! I’m looking forward to seeing what he and Edler can do! October is TOO far away!

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  11. akidd
    July 2, 2012

    gillis did what he had to do. lost schultz and needed a dman. would he have signed garrison if he had landed schultz? i don’t know the answer.

    dmen are expensive and gillis had to pay. my only worry is that panther dmen like jbow and ballard have had a hard time adjusting to the west. it’s a step up. here’s hoping garrison breaks that mold.

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    • Joel
      July 2, 2012

      Boumeester was overrated (he had points equal to Bieksa roughly in the year prior to be traded/signed by Calgary)

      Ballard, as others have said above, was really only good when confident and making a move on the opposition’s net. He wasn’t exactly rock steady defensively, and then building offence out of that as a secondary focus. Unlike say Hamhuis (or Ohlund before him), who play hard and with awareness in their own end, and then look for their chances at the other end of the rink.

      Going by his stellar Adv. stats and the comments of those that watched him night in and night out in Florida, I’m confident that Garrison can be a complimentary top 4, and hopefully as the partner for Edler. His offence is really secondary to his solid possession game, as the Canucks needed another “enabler” type to pair with Edler.

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  12. Abby
    July 2, 2012

    The first two paragraphs of this post is exactly why I’m a Bulie.

    Quality post. This signing doesn’t completely numb the pain of our Pal-O and Romer leaving, but it’s still something to be excited about.

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  13. Phileo99
    July 3, 2012

    Yes, Garrison scored his 16G on the right side of Campbell last season, but he has publicly stated that he is more comfortable playing on the left side.
    Combine that with the quality of competition being much tougher in the Western Conference, and you have a risk, albeit a measured risk, that MGGM is rolling the dice that Garrison won’t be a Ballard2.0.
    That said however, I too can’t wait for October to see how Garrison gels with the rest of the canucks d-men.

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  14. MB13
    July 3, 2012

    I think the Canucks could sign Dana Murzyn and you guys would convince yourself that it’s a great signing.

    Am I the only worried about the term for a d-man that nobody has heard of?

    Guys – seriously… start thinking critically.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      July 3, 2012

      Well, we have links and data and statistics and information about Garrison to back up what we’re saying… you, on the other hand, are basing your opinion on your admitted lack of knowledge about him and nothing else… So right back atcha, is what I’m saying.

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      • MB13
        July 3, 2012

        Let me ask this another way….

        I haven’t been following you guys since the beginning of time…

        has there been an acquisition made by the Canucks in the past 3 years that you have said has not been good at the time it was made?

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        • Harrison Mooney
          July 3, 2012

          This blog is only two years old, so we can’t go back to the Bernier acquisition, which I still think was a host of rookie mistakes by Gillis. I was pretty iffy on the Ballard trade, the Torres signing and the Sturm signing, too. But your point stands. We’re generally pretty positive here, especially when it comes to Gillis’s moves. I like Gillis and I like most of his moves, though. That’s just personal opinion. Plus we were both hoping for Garrison.

          I’m pretty much willing to admit the Ballard trade was a bust, fwiw.

          Which ones have you hated at the time they were made, exceedingly divisive Hodgson trade aside?

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          • MB13
            July 3, 2012

            I thought the Ballard deal was terrible. I think the Canucks mis-managed Cody and are playing damage control with that one. I still think the Booth deal has a lot to prove (considering the term left and the cap hit) and thought everyone was too quick to give the benefit of the doubt to Booth’s ability to play with Kesler.

            I’ll take what you guys say with a grain of salt seeing as you do admit that you like Gillis and therefore like the moves he makes.

            I think he completely botched the Luongo contract and painted himself into a corner. When the deal comes I’ll fully expect him to say this was a hockey deal and I’ll fully expect PTIB spin the assets coming back in a positive light.

            I struggle to find moves that I’ve been supportive about. Higgins is one. Some might argue that Lapierre is another but sometimes he does more harm than good with is antics. I guess you can give credit about the Hamhuis deal but I suspect he wanted to play in Vancouver and the Canucks only had to make a reasonable offer to make this happen.

            Maybe I’m wrong about Garrison. But the moves the Canucks are making seem more desperate and desperate. Other than Hamhuis and Higgins, I don’t think Gillis has put a stamp on this team in 5 years from a personell department and is still living off the assets he was given when he came to Vancouver. I certainly don’t see a masterplan – it seems to change depending on the direction the wind is blowing.

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            • akidd
              July 3, 2012

              hey mb13, the sun is just now struggling to come out, just on schedule for after canada day weekend. and gillis is doing what he thinks is best. the guy’s a pretty sharp cookie and manages risk pretty well imho.

              not easy being a gm in a parity league. especially when you’re trying to win a cup in a narrow window of time and haven’t had a high draft pick in years. it’s hard to fill needs with so few players available and so many other teams with needs as well. in this regard though i think gillis has done really well making vancouver a preferred destination. that groundwork was laid with the sundin and luongo signings, the price he paid for momentum. lots of teams wanted hamhuis and garrison but they didn’t get them and they didn’t get them for a discount.

              sometimes i think gillis sees clearly and other times less so. same goes with his patience. grabner seemed like an asset that just went poof. booth just seemed like the wrong choice, especially for a team that prides itself on choosing character. hodgson was mismanaged too. so there have been a few valleys along the way. nobody wins them all.

              overall though he’s got the canucks poised for another competitive season, another chance to win. short-term he’s done great. what happens long-term is another story but one that is probably mostly a result of success(low picks.) but can’t complain about that as at the meeting when mg asked us all if we wanted to win now or later we all put our hands up for ‘now’.

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              • MB13
                July 3, 2012

                I’m not so concerned with what Gillis has done right or wrong.

                I’m more concerned with the free pass he seems to get from the media in this city.

                I agree with everything you have said. I just wish we had more balanced reporting.

                Remember, Gillis is a former agent. He knows how to spin things to make things seem better than they are to suit his agenda. I think it should be the media’s responsibility to not simply regurgitate (sp?) what he speaks but to think critically about the decisions he makes. For example – I think everyone was far too light on the guy for the Hodgson deal – if that had been Nonis mishandling Cody, we would have heard thousands of donut jokes. Gillis does it and we’re ready to assume Kassian is Neely v2.0.

                So if I’m being negative in my comments – I’m merely trying to balance the overly positive stance I feel PTIB has taken. With all due respect.

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              • akidd
                July 3, 2012

                as for garrison well, i don’t know much about him. lots of money and term for a guy who’s only played two nhl seasons and comes without a pedigree. let’s call it ‘medium risk’. but the fact remains that the canucks needed another top-four dman. sometimes you gotta make a move because the needs are immediate.you’ve got the fancy dinner all ready to go but you ran out of salt. well, you have to go pay corner store prices for that salt. either that or a bland dinner.

                like burke who sold the farm for a scoring winger but STILL hasn’t landed a top centre years later. got a defensive coach but STILL doesn’t have bonafide no.1 goalie. time doesn’t stand still until the right deal comes along. sometimes you have to overpay because your needs are immediate and you put all your other work at risk if you don’t fill them.

                it could be worse, way worse. some gm is about to give parise 125 million dollars. and suter 100 mil. can you imagine that?!? i imagine that weber would command the same or more so i’ve put those hopes on hold. those deals are so high risk and could sink a team. only a gm with a gun to his head could sign those deals. fortunately the canucks aren’t that desperate.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 3, 2012

      We are thinking critically: Garrison was a highly sought after free agent who has great counting statistics and even better underlying numbers. I was sincerely hoping that Gillis would sign him, so why wouldn’t I be positive about it when he did sign him? Just because you haven’t heard of him doesn’t mean he’s a bad defenceman. It just means you’re not paying attention. Many, many people around the NHL are high on Garrison.

      I admit, we do take a pretty positive stance here on PITB, but we have a lot to be positive about. The Canucks have been one of the best teams in the NHL for the entire time we’ve been running this blog. Trust me, if they were missing the playoffs, making dumb moves in free agency, and generally acting like they didn’t know what they were doing, we’d be a lot more negative. Thankfully, we’re not an Oilers blog.

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  15. akidd
    July 3, 2012

    i hear ya, mb13. i typed my fingers raw here on pitb over the coverage of the hodgson deal. coulda used some backup;)

    sure gillis has this town nailed down. he knows that part of the gig too. but at least he backs it up with hockey smarts. imagine if you were a leaf fan living in toronto and getting the media coverage there?!? that would hurt so bad.

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    • MB13
      July 5, 2012

      I was quite surprised at the positive review that deal got. All of a sudden Kassian was a sure fire 50 goal power forward and Hodgson was an issue. That deal was a head-shaker for me. I was shocked that it received positive feedback.

      We’ve had 5 years of the Gillis regime. There is not a single impact player that he has drafted on the roster. How much longer will he live off of the hand he was dealt when arriving here?

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