It's official—Manny Malhotra has been given the green light to participate in contact practices. This is astonishing news given how serious his eye injury was. He underwent not only one, but two surgeries to repair the damage. Now it looks like he might be able to lace up the skates and play in the finals at some point.
This is monumental for Vancouver. Yes, Malhotra would be rusty and not in game shape, but his faceoff abilities alone are enough for Canucks fans to get excited.
If Malhotra can come back and give Vancouver 10 minutes a game it would alleviate a lot of pressure off of Kesler. One of the main reasons why Kesler was nominated for the Selke Trophy was because Malhotra did a lot of the heavy lifting for him during the regular season.
Malhotra is great on the penalty kill, blocks a ton of shots, is great defensively, has a great giveaway/takeawy ratio and is an outstanding leader on and off the ice. His presence alone would allow Kesler to play a more offensive role and give the Canucks two bona fide scoring lines in their quest to win the Cup.
In fact, I made an argument not too long ago that Malhotra should have been nominated for the Selke instead of Kesler. If you take the award by its pure definition, Malhotra fits the description to a tee.
This doesn't mean that Kesler isn't good defensively, because he is, but a lot of his offensive numbers during the regular season were thanks in large part to the relief he had in Malhotra.
By inserting him back into the lineup, the Canucks would once again have the most dominant set of centers in the league. If you go back and look at previous Stanley Cup champions, this area is consistently one of the most critical and important areas.
Whichever team comes out of the East is going to have their hands full if Malhotra does indeed see game action.
During the season it was next to impossible to match the depth of the Vancouver forwards and one of the most pressing questions heading into the playoffs was how would the Canucks fare without Malhotra?
The answer was that Kesler took on a more defensive role and the Canucks were just fine. Were they as dominant as they were during the season? No. But it's a tribute to the coaching staff and the quality depth throughout the lineup that they would be able to take out difficult opponents without missing a beat.
Now they have a spoil of riches and it could be the final nail in the coffin to the would-be challengers.
The only question is will Malhotra see any significant game action or is this coy gamesmanship on the part of the coaches?