A crushing blow to the Vancouver Canucks as Manny Malhotra will not return to the team this season or for the playoffs, according to an announcement on the club’s official site.
Although it’s significant blow to the Canucks’ Stanley Cup hopes, the important thing to take into consideration here is Malhotra’s health. Malhotra’s status was confirmed following a procedure on his injured left eye, and further consultation with specialists. The Canucks’ centre was struck in the eye with a puck that deflected off a stick in a game versus Colorado last Wednseday. Malhotra was not wearing a visor.
Jonathan Willis took a look at the candidates to replace Malhotra’s tough minutes and pick up the slack on defensive zone draws over the weekend. With Malhotra out of the picture, it’s likely that Ryan Kesler will shift back into a more defensive role and play more minutes against the opposition’s top competition. Deadline acquisitions Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins could be called upon to replace some of Malhotra’s average of 2:45 minutes on the penalty kill per night.
Malhotra’s health is the first and foremost concern of his teammates, and the incident that has effectively ended his season and shedding doubt on his career has the Canucks rethinking the visor debate. Kevin Bieksa, for one, has stated that he’s considering wearing one after witnessing what Malhotra has had to endure. General manager Mike Gillis had the following to say with regards to visors:
“I think that the changes that have happened in the game – the speed of play in particular and the use of these composite sticks – should make players consider wearing one. Some players don’t feel they can be as effective with a visor on. Some of them just don’t like wearing them and right now it’s their choice. We certainly encourage them to wear them, but that’s all we can do.”
Malhotra had taken 1261 faceoffs for the Canucks this season, winning at an incredible rate of 61.7%. Malhotra was drafted 7th overall by the New York Rangers in 1998, he has played 12 seasons in the NHL.