The Vancouver Canucks sent out a press release today confirming that Manny Malhotra will not be returning to the Canucks this season after sustaining an eye injury in a game against Colorado last week.
Malhotra, who doesn’t wear a visor, had 11 goals and 30 points in 72 games this season with the Canucks, primarily as their third line centre. More importantly, Malhotra was a league leader in faceoff percentage at 61.7% and was the team’s go-to man in the defensive zone.
The hole opened by Malhotra’s absence will be difficult to fill–although it makes the deadline acquisition of Higgins all that more important. Higgins, like Malhotra, is a player who moves the puck north, but, unfortunately, he does not take faceoffs. Ryan Kesler does, but the role that Malhotra played this season allowed Kesler to play a more offensive style, scoring 36 goals, good for fourth in the league. Shifting Kesler back into primarily a defensive position takes away scoring from that second line, particularly since the Canucks are not very deep when it comes to scoring wingers.
It will be interesting to see how General Manager and Mike Gillis decide to fill out the roster as we approach playoff time. Will Cody Hodgson be brought up to take Kesler’s spot on the second line, as Kesler plays with Higgins on the third or will Maxim Lapierre take on the full-time job as Canucks third-line centre? It is a big hole to fill going forward.