Mar 17, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison (5) shoots as Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) defends during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Garrison Coming Full Circle

On June 27th, 2014 about 4 hours before the 2014 NHL Draft was to begin, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced they made a trade to acquire 29 year old defenseman Jason Garrison of the Vancouver Canucks. In exchange for a 2nd round draft pick, the Bolts also acquired the rights to Jeff Costello and a 7th round pick in the 2015 draft, along with Jason Garrison.

There was no doubt that the defensive lines were the weakness exposed in the short four game playoff loss to the Canadiens of Montreal. The Tampa Bay Lightning defense corps looked old, looked slow and got beat by a group of faster forwards from up north.

There was also little doubt that Steve Yzerman, GM of the Tampa organization would stand pat after that four game sweep handed to the Bolts. As is his custom, Yzerman moved swiftly and deftly to make the necessary changes and it all started with this trade. It was a harbinger of things to come.

In Jason Garrison, the Lightning acquired a left handed defenseman with a canon shot. Garrison’s booming shot has been well known throughout the NHL for the last few years.

Starting his career in Florida with the cross state Panthers in 2008, Jason Garrison began to develop into a noted 2 way defenseman. He always had that hard, blasting shot that makes defenders turn their heads, but he quickly learned the defensive part of being an NHL defenseman.

Within a couple of years in the NHL, and despite playing for one of the bottom feeding teams – Florida Panthers, Jason Garrison was named by Canada’s national newspaper, Globe and Mail, as the NHL’s second best defensive defenseman, after the 2010-2011 season. Quite an accomplishment, 113 games into your NHL career.

Now established as one of the league’s better defensive blueliners, Jason Garrison continued to improve his offensive performance. More than tripling his goals from 5 to 16 and almost doubling his points from 18 to 33 in the 2011-2012. Perhaps, it was more confidence in that heavy shot of his. Maybe it was the team’s growing confidence in his abilities to quarterback the power play. In any case, Jason Garrison began to progress among all NHL defensemen.

After the 2012 playoffs, Jason Garrison was an unrestricted free agent and chose to take his growing talents to his hometown team. He signed a six year deal worth almost $28 million with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, 2012.

There are some who look at Garrison’s two years with Vancouver as a regression. Peeling back the layers a little to look more closely, let’s keep in mind that the 2012-2013 season was delayed several months as a result of the lockout. Jason Garrison, along with all the NHL players, were held back from getting on the ice by the NHL. Clearly, this affected everyone’s play including Garrison.

Extrapolating his lockout season numbers over a full 82 game season would have given Jason Garrison, 13 goals and 28 points. A small drop off from the 18/33 he produced in his last year in Florida, but hardly earth shattering. Garrison did bounce back last year to 33 points with 7 goals, although he lost some time on the power play and had to change partners during the season.

I have heard and read on a number of occasions that an NHL defenseman doesn’t really begin to show his true capabilities until he has played 300 games. For some reason, that is a magic number for D-men throughout the history of the NHL.

Let’s say for a minute that this adage is true. If so, we are in for a treat with Jason Garrison, who currently has 318 NHL games under his belt. He knows what he can and cannot do on the ice. He understands the game at a level that 15 year veterans do as well.

He is at his peak time in his career and he is now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. I am looking forward to seeing Jason Garrison play for the Bolts. I am anxious to see, nay hear that shot that I have heard so much about. I wait with anticipation to see who Jon Cooper pairs him up with to form half of one of the best top four defensive groups in the NHL.

Jason Garrison, welcome to Tampa Bay. You have played here in Florida before and it’s good to have you back in the Sunshine State. You know you were the first domino in the 2014 Yzerplan.  After trading for you, the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted seven players, signed Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow.  You were the lynchpin, Jason Garrison.

Welcome back, Jason Garrison. You have come full circle in your career and now play on the Gulf Coast, the West Coast of Florida and the Winning Coast. No more toiling for teams that don’t make the playoffs. Welcome back, Jason Garrison, Bolts Nation is looking forward to you being a defensive anchor for years to come.

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