Jason Garrison (and Canucks fans) rejoice: the new coach is a sadist

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: ,

11 comments

  1. Chris the Curmudgeon
    October 3, 2013

    2011-12 season? Think you might mean 2010-11. Yeah, it’s been that long since the finals against Boston. However, the moment I was turned against the drop pass for good was in game 2 against the Kings, when Edler dropped it right to a waiting Kopitar leading to a shorty to make it 1-0. In that moment, it was abundantly clear that other teams knew it was coming and that they had practised how they could pressure Edler into giving it away. That he continued to do it all last season is as damning an indictment of the coaching as any.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
    • Harrison Mooney
      October 3, 2013

      That’s not a damning indictment of the drop pass. It’s an indictment of Edler’s decision-making in that moment. He should have seen Kopitar circling back and kept going forward. Blame him, not the tactic.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +8 (from 8 votes)
      • Matt
        October 3, 2013

        exactly. remember the goal that Edler scored on an end to end rush, where the team (I believe it was Columbus) expected the drop pass, Edler properly assessed the situation, took the puck to the net and scored.

        I see many teams’ 1st unit PP using the drop pass now on zone entries. Very little dump and chase; especially with skill guys. Expect some changes this year, where the drop pass is just a single tactic that can be pulled from the playbook.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
  2. Chris the Curmudgeon
    October 3, 2013

    I blame the coaches for allowing him to continue to employ the tactic when he clearly does not have appropriate discretion as to when to do so.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +8 (from 10 votes)
  3. Aaron
    October 3, 2013

    I have to agree with points from Both CHris and Harrison. The players have to be aware of thier surroundings and Edler was not. The drop pass is a very effective tool, how ever last year might have been the worst when you could see it coming about the same time Vancouver got control of the puck in thier zone. There needs to be other options used with regular frequency so that the other team is not sure if the drop pass is coming or not.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)
  4. Kenji
    October 3, 2013

    This is so obvious that it must have been mentioned before, but holy hand grenades, bearded Jason Garrison in profile looks like the Johnny Canuck patch. I’m wondering if he did it deliberately!

    In other news, I wish they would let him change his number back to 52. Because B-52, it is a Bomber. Because of the bombing effect of the…the thing.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +16 (from 16 votes)
  5. NarkusMaslund
    October 3, 2013

    The part of the post suggesting the issue is the over-reliance or telegraphing of the drop-pass is the issue rather than the drop-pass itself is spot on. Without a doubt, the reason the drop-pass was so universally hated over the last couple years was because it felt like the Canucks did it every single time they tried to enter the zone. Mixing up the zone-entry attempts will go a long way to diversifying the offence (or, at the very least, keep all of us from yelling at the television and on the internet so much).

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +8 (from 8 votes)
    • John in Marpole
      October 3, 2013

      Exactly. Predictability is a killer of power plays.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  6. ikillchicken
    October 3, 2013

    Just a thought here but could we NOT put somebody in front of the net? As tenacious as Kesler and/or Burrows are, their average size and strength has always made them minimally effective in this role. What if we just use the Sedins and Edler’s natural puck moving ability to create space and if that fails just bomb the heck out of them with Garrison until either the puck is in or all the defenders are broken?

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)
  7. Aaron
    October 3, 2013

    ha ha ha broken defenders!

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  8. Brynford
    October 3, 2013

    First game of the year, first Canucks power play, first unit out, first shot. Garrison scores. Keep it up!

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)