While the Vancouver Canucks have been dealing with countless injuries along the blue line, the one that may end up hurting them the most is the one to Manny Malhotra. The Canucks announced today that Malhotra will miss the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs after taking a puck to the eye last week. Malhotra had the eye operated on but it’s apparent that whatever has happened to it is damaging enough to keep him off the ice the rest of the way.
Malhotra’s role on the Canucks third line as a defensive forward and face off winner (he’s second in the league at 61.7% behind only David Steckel) is a huge one as he’s been a steady rock on the Canucks grinder line. His contributions offensively aren’t big (11 goals, 19 assists) but they’ve been solid. Malhotra’s role as a shutdown center for opposing forwards is where Vancouver will miss him the most, however.
What might prove to be the bigger dynamic out of this is the case it makes for all players to wear visors. We’ve seen countless players run into problems because they didn’t wear one only to have those incidents change their mind for good. Steve Yzerman, Bryan Berard, and Ian Laperriere all come to mind immediately and whether it was from a wayward stick or a puck to the eye, those players all came back from their situations to throw their support fully in favor of using them.
As it is, the NHL has no rules on whether or not to wear a visor as it’s at the players discretion. All junior hockey, college hockey, and the AHL have rules about protecting the eyes or face at those levels. With the NHL having no rules about it makes it rather stunning the use of visors hasn’t gone the way they did when the league made helmets mandatory in 1979. At the very least, grandfathering in those players who wish to take a risk with their health should be made the rule. Any players that come to the NHL through the AHL has to wear a visor at that level, them taking it off upon reaching the pros seems reckless.
As for how the Canucks fill Malhotra’s role, the pressure shifts to Maxim Lapierre to grow up and play a stronger game up the middle. Without a strong presence there, the Canucks are significantly weakened defensively. They’ve been able to overcome injuries all season long, but this is one that’s tougher to handle since they don’t quite have the same depth up the middle as they do on defense.