The Canucks made it official today and announced that Manny Malhotra will miss the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
In his post last week, Richard sounded more optimistic than I feel right now. It’s true that the Canucks have faced adversity all season and have had guys step up and contribute. However, most of their injuries were in the back end, and I just don’t think replacing Manny and what he’s given the Canucks this season can be easily done.
All season long, the Canucks have rolled out their three-headed monster down the middle. There are very few teams that can roll out a Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner and two Selke Trophy candidates to center their top three lines.
But even as good as Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra have been, there were always questions about the Canucks’ depth down the middle. They’ve auditioned many players at center without extended success, which was why GM Mike Gillis acquired Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins at the trade deadline. While Lapierre and Higgins are beginning to get comfortable playing within the Canucks’ system, it remains to be seen if they can do what Manny did.
On the penalty-kill, it’s usually Manny who takes the first faceoff in the Canucks’ zone and he ranks third in the league in faceoffs won while short-handed (145 FOW) behind only Sammy Pahlsson and Paul Gaustad. He also leads all Canucks forwards with a 2:45 average TOI while shorthanded. And he does this for the second-best penalty-kill in the entire league.
On even-strength, Manny is usually on the ice against some of the opposing teams’ best players. Pass It To Bulis actually did a good analysis of this a few weeks ago. Because Manny has taken over as the Canucks’ checking center, it’s freed up the Sedins and Kesler to concentrate on the offensive side of things.
All this while also scoring 11 goals and 30 points.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the Canucks are done without Manny in the lineup. Like Richard, I hope somebody does step up in his absence. Henrik and Kesler will most likely be asked to take more faceoffs. Likewise, Higgins and Lapierre will need to work on their faceoff skills. Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen will need to take their bulldog checking to another level. Tanner Glass and Mason Raymond will have to chip in more on the PK. And others will need to take on a moew leadership role.
It’s not impossible to replace Manny. It’s just not easy.