Back in October when the regular season began, fans and executives alike were looking forward to seeing who will be the breakout star for the Panthers this season. While there were a number of players who stepped up big in games that mattered throughout the season, however one player stood out the most, Jason Garrison.
Garrison began his road to becoming an NHL player in 2008 when he was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Florida Panthers. His uphill battle was underway as he was immediately placed in the AHL for developmental purposes. After splitting the 2009-2010 season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL and the Florida Panthers, Garrison stuck around for good for the 2010-2011 season. His first full year in the NHL was quite successful as he was able to score five goals, while accounting for 18 total points. When the season was over, Garrison put in a lot of hard work as he looked to not only improve his defensive play, but his offensive play as well.
The hard work paid off as Jason came into the 2011-2012 season with a brand new attitude towards the game. Garrison’s work showed off quick as he scored his first goal of the season in the very first game of the season, as the Panthers went onto defeat the New York Islanders 2-0.
As the season progressed, Garrison’s play was only getting better. He continued to provide fantastic defensive play along with fellow blue liner, Brian Campbell. On March 23rd, 2012 Jason Garrison scored his 16th goal of the season. This goal was a milestone for not only him, but the Florida Panthers. The 16th goal was a career high for him. That is a pretty sweet accomplishment on its own. However, the goal also marked a franchise record for most goals scored in a single season by Florida Panther defensemen. Garrison is slowly and quietly developing into one of the better 2-way defenders in the league, as both his offense and defensive play has seen a drastic improvement over the years.
Despite coming off of a career year, Garrison’s future remains in question here in South Florida, as he is now an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign anywhere else in the league. The Panthers want Garrison back and Garrison would like to stay here, however, nothing is a done deal yet. The two sides need to come to an agreement on the right price. This past season Garrison was one of the most underpaid players for his productivity on the ice, making a small amount of only $675,000. With his future here in serious question, Garrison stated that he would entertain the Vancouver Canucks if they showed interest. In a recent interview Jason stated, “I was a Canuck fan growing up. I even played during one of the intermissions at the Coliseum and I remember Trevor Linden and Jyrki Lumme being on that team. All my friends and family are big Canuck fans. They give me a hard time about being all the way out here in Florida.” When asked about the opportunity of joining the Canucks, he also stated, “So it’s about the situation and how you fit in with the team. I’d definitely be listening if that was the case on July 1.”
Fans here in South Florida are praying that the two sides come to an agreement as soon as possible. I myself am hoping that we can come to an agreement with Garrison as he brings something that no other defender brings to our team, GOALS. As a group, the Panthers defenders scored a total 30 goals. With 16 coming from Garrison, the rest of the defenders to see the ice this past season only scored 14. Do the math, Garrison scored more goals than the rest of the defense combined. That only says a lot to how far he has come as an NHL player. It is a must that the team brings him back as he is one of the most important players not only on the blue line, but on the team as well.
Everyone in South Florida wants to have Garrison back. It is obvious that our team will see a decrease in offensive numbers if he isn’t brought back next season and that is something we just cannot afford.
In his short amount of time here in Florida, Jason has developed into not only one of the better 2-way defenders in the league with his terrific and much improved slap shot, but he has also developed into a fan favorite as the fans are mesmerized by his natural love and passion for the game and his play as well.
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