Manny Malhotra: Vancouver Canucks' Unsung Hero No Longer?

Jeff TaylorContributor IMarch 22, 2011

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 11:  Manny Malholtra #27 of the Vancouver Canucks  checks Andrew MacDonald #47 of the New York Islanders during an NHL game at the Nassau Coliseum on January 11, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

The news is out today that Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra will miss the remainder of the season and playoffs with an eye injury suffered on March 16th during a game versus the Colorado Avalanche. For those who missed it, Malhotra (who does not wear a visor) was hit in the eye with a puck after a freak deflection off of Avalanche defender Erik Johnson's stick.

The loss is significant for the Canucks, who currently sit atop the NHL standings with 103 points. Malhotra's value to Vancouver can't be overstated enough, especially now that the team will be without his services come playoff time. While Manny before his injury may have been the front runner for the title of "Canucks' unsung hero award," fans have suddenly come to fully appreciate his value to the club in his absence.

While Malhotra was a streaky scorer at best this season for the Canucks (11 goals and 19 assists in 72 games) it was his more discreet talents that made him such a valuable player. Up until his injury, Malhotra was second in the league in face-off wins and percentage. Malhotra was always called upon for the crucial draws, be it short-handed or in the defensive zone.

In addition to his face-off prowess, Malhotra was also arguably the Canucks' greatest defensive forward, with all due respect to Ryan Kesler. Anchoring the Canucks' top checking line, Manny was called upon to defend against opposing top line players and to kill vital seconds off of penalties.

It's no secret that many fans and critics questioned Malhotra's $2.5 million a year salary at the start of the season, but Manny has been worth every cent. The Canucks will feel the loss of Malhotra this postseason, even with the expected return of defenders Kevin Bieksa and Andrew Alberts.

Manny Malhotra may have flown under the radar for 72 games this season, but with his season over and his presence missing from the lineup, the Canucks and their fans may never discount Mr. Malhotra's importance to the Canucks' success again.