Every team needs good grinders. The guys you send out to take tough faceoffs in their own end, to shadow the other team's best scoring lines, to provide some energy to a listless team, or just to chew up minutes and give your stars a break.
After the 2009 playoffs, general manager Doug Wilson decided he was not getting enough from his third and fourth lines and dumped five of the six players by the Olympic break of 2010. While the new players actually scored fewer goals for the San Jose Sharks than the previous season's, the team saw improvement on defence and in the faceoff circle.
Manny Malhotra was a big part of that. Perhaps the biggest...
He had the highest faceoff percentage on the Sharks, although he was inexplicably on the wing so much that he did not take enough faceoffs to qualify for the league lead.
He recorded a career-high in goals (14) and his second-best ever point total (33).
Manny was second among forwards and third on the team in plus-minus with a career-high plus-17.
He was good enough to play on the second line when a shakeup was needed or an injury occurred, and contributed on special teams. He was instrumental in the Sharks having an elite penalty kill, and even netted two regular season and one playoff goal on the power play.
All of this made him the team's biggest steal based on salary ($700,000). With no player exceeding expectations as much in the regular season as Malhotra, he scores an A for the first 82 games.
And while he did not show up much on the scoresheet in the playoffs, his hard work could be seen shift-by-shift. He not only won faceoffs, but adequately blocked shots, leveled hits, and dug the puck out of the corners.
However, a team does need more production out of its best checking line forward than just the one power play goal and a minus-one rating. The standard he set during the regular season equated to three goals, four assists, and a plus-four rating.
He should at least have been able to achieve half those results, even with his production that does not appear in those statistics. Thus, I can offer no better than a D for his final exam (playoff performance).
Despite the playoffs only being 15 games long, they count half as much as the regular season that gets you in. That means his overall season grade averages out to a B-.
Malhotra is an unrestricted free agent: To see how his 2009-10 performance affects his prospects for remaining on the team, check out my companion piece at Shark-Infested Blogger.