In Jason Garrison’s first eight games last season in Florida, he had no points in six of them.
It turned out to be a breakout offensive season for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound defenceman from White Rock. He scored four points (3-1) in his next three games and ended up with 16 goals and 33 points — parlaying the big numbers into a six-year, $27.6-million deal with the Vancouver Canucks as an unrestricted free agent last summer.
Heading into Wednesday’s game with Colorado, a 3-0 Vancouver win at Rogers Arena, Garrison had no points in six games and the player who was a terror blasting from the point for the Panthers last season has been a no-show on a Canucks power play that’s sitting in a mediocre middle-of-the-pack position. This is a power play that has the Sedins up front and Alex Edler on the other point, so there’s no shortage of talent.
Garrison did break through with an even-strength goal, though, to open the scoring for the Canucks with a first-period rocket from the left point after Avs Erik Johnson’s poor clearance attempt.
Still no joy on the power play, but for Garrison it’s a work in progress.
“It’s finding the lanes to the net and making some movement and supporting those guys,” said Garrison, 28, before Wednesday’s game. “I’ve just got to make sure I’m learning from that.”
Garrison brushes off any suggestion that his numbers of last season — which was an eruption from the 5-13-18 he managed the previous season, his first full venture in the NHL — put the bar unfairly high.
“It definitely raises expectations, but I’m accepting those,” he said. “I’m just trying to find where I fit in and where I can make the best contributions offensively.
“It’s a short season and I’ve got to make sure I’m learning quickly. I’m not too concerned. I know I’ll figure it out and be able to get some shots on the net.”
Garrison does admit that moving to the Western Conference has also added to the challenge of getting comfortable in Vancouver. He’s seeing teams every game that he’s encountered rarely in Florida.
“When you know players, you get to know their tendencies,” he said. “I’ve played these teams before, but obviously not as much.
“It’s about watching video and listening to what the guys have to say about them.”
Garrison was signed ostensibly to be a younger, less-fragile replacement for Sami Salo. He’s shown so far he can play top-four minutes (second on the team, at 22:42 average ice time per game) and be effective against opposing top-six forwards, but the hoped-for even-strength chemistry with Edler hasn’t materialized.
Head coach Alain Vigneault swapped his top four pairings during the game in San Jose on Sunday — putting Garrison with Kevin Bieksa and Edler with Dan Hamhuis — and looks to keep them that way for the time being.
“We felt we needed to make a couple of little adjustments there,” said Vigneault. “I thought it worked real well in the L.A. (a 3-2 shootout loss) game.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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