The neutral zone drop-pass on the powerplay was used to perfection in Vancouver all through the 2010-11 season, and Vancouver fans loved it — right up until the Boston Bruins figured out how to defend it. After that, it was seen as symptomatic of everything that was wrong with the Canucks’ powerplay, and many assumed that the coaching staff cull — and the dismissal of Newell Brown, who introduced the club to the tactic — would spell the merciful end of it in Vancouver.
Nope. Despite Brown’s move to Glendale, the drop-pass remained a regular sight on the Canucks’ powerplay in the preseason, mainly because, despite all the griping, it works.
Consider the drop pass like the Sedins’ slap-pass: an innovation that worked so well in Vancouver that other coaching staffs, including the incoming one, realized they should be doing it too. So long as you don’t overrely on or telegraph it, which is where the Canucks occasionally got into trouble, it’s the ideal approach. The moment the teams stand up at the blueline, you leave the puck for a trailer, who skates onto it with added speed and more time to find the weak spot in their Red Rover-esque wall. There will be many, many more drop-passes this season, and most of the time, they’ll be the right course of action.
But while that aspect of the powerplay remains unchanged, this year’s coaching staff did make one big adjustment: Jason Garrison will finally get his shot, which means the first unit powerplay will too.
The previous regime’s reluctance to use Garrison and his Death Cannon on the powerplay remains one of the biggest head-scratchers in their tenure. The powerplay struggled all year; it was basically the Canucks’ biggest issue.
And yet, despite calls from all corners to let Garrison unload from the blueline — a move that would have given the unit another serious weapon, not to mention freed Alex Edler up to do more facilitating and less one-timing — Alain Vigneault and Newell Brown stubbornly refused. You could argue that it helped cost them their jobs.
Why were they so willing to die on that hill? Were they worried about Garrison hurting one of their own?
Crazy as it sounds, I actually think they were. With Garrison practicing on the top unit Tuesday, (a strong indication that he’d be there Thursday), Henrik Sedin was asked explained what he’ll bring to the unit. He did so with a dash of classic Swedish humour that seemed, to me, rooted in the old regime’s original concern that he’d hurt a teammate.
“You saw it today,” he said after practice. “When he [Garrison] shoots the puck it’s either at the net and going in, or you’re going to break someone’s foot, or you’re going to hurt Kes in front.”
Funny guy. Granted, a hurt Ryan Kesler would be unfortunate. His injury issues over the past two seasons have paralleled the team’s troubles. You can see how a coaching staff would get a little protective of him, not to mention the Sedins, who also run the risk of getting hit when they’re hovering around Jason Garrison’s intended target.
Fortunately, John Tortorella is less concerned about hurting his players. Seems to me the man relishes his own guys getting hit with pucks. It borders a fetish. He claims a Sedin getting hit with a puck will make everyone on the bench 10-feet tall — we suspect it’s just him.
There will be downsides to having a sadist behind the bench. But the upside is that we’ll finally, mercifully, get to see Jason Garrison on the first unit powerplay.Tags: Jason Garrison, John Tortorella