The old adage that defense wins championships is one we’ve seen proven true year after year. The Blackhawks proved that last year. So did the San Francisco Giants when they won the World Series last year on stellar pitching and field play. And in the case of recent Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, there’s no doubt in my mind that the winning formula is a complement of defense and offense.
That said, the loss of Manny Malhotra isn’t one to panic over. There is no denying that Malhotra’s contributions to this team’s penalty kill and bottom-six has been integral to the team’s success this season, but all teams win as a team and lose as a team. No one player is the team and that rings true even more so on this Mike Gillis team.
The Canucks are no strangers to adversity this season. Their roster has been plagued by various injuries to various forwards and defensemen; despite that however, the Canucks have kept winning. If anything, they’ve demonstrated throughout the course of the season that it’s their system that is winning games for them. Take for example the Canucks in January and February. In a three week span, they lost six defensemen (all of them of top-four calibre), and rattled of a 7-2 record. Whether it’s losing Rick Rypien to personal issues or Mason Raymond to a hand injury, someone has stepped up to fill the void.
With how this team is built, Manny’s loss shouldn’t be treated any differently. The Canucks have been fortunate this season to realize great potential in players who have stepped up to fill the voids created by injury. Chris Tanev is one such example. Manny has been a catalyst for the play of Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres this season, and I think we’ll see more how much he’s positively impacted their play. When the Canucks lost Daniel Sedin last year, it made them a better team. It challenged Henrik Sedin to push forward and taught him how to play a more selfish game which ultimately won him the Art Ross and Hart Trophy. Growth comes in the wake of adversity and the Canucks have had no shortage of it this season.
This season’s Canucks team is built differently from previous seasons. They’re deeper and they’re not placing all their eggs in one basket the way they did in 06/07 when they expected Luongo to win all four rounds of the playoffs singlehandedly. They’re not expecting the Sedins to be a two-man line on a one-line team and carry the team to the Stanley cup. In fact, one of the marks of this year’s Canucks team is their ability to stick to their game plan regardless of circumstance. Whether it’s injury or a multi-goal deficit, their play doesn’t change and it’s that consistency that is going to be what will dictate a deep playoff run. The Canucks have one of the strongest cores of players in the league, are backed by one of the most skilled and deep blue lines and have the best one-two punch in net this league has to offer.
When one door closes, another one opens. Malhotra’s exodus from the lineup, indefinitely for the time being, is simply another opportunity for someone else to excel. While Malhotra will be missed, his 16 minutes of ice-time per game can (hopefully) be replaced as the team prepares for the playoffs. It’s not time to hit the panic button, it’s not hugely damaging to our playoff chances, it’s a part of the regular season and something to take in stride.