Stick in Link: Schneider is no longer Luongo’s problem; Manny Malhotra update

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Canucks need Lapierre to channel his inner Malhotra

Judging by their lines at practice on Thursday, the Canucks will be loading up their second line, bumping Ryan Kesler to the wing and moving Derek Roy up to second line centre, with Chris Higgins rounding out the trio.

It’s easy to understand why: the Canucks struggled to create any sustained offensive pressure in the first game of the series. Creating a stacked top-six is a simple solution, though it remains to be seen how effective it will be. Kesler, Roy, and Higgins certainly had their moments when they were matched up during the regular season and it creates some difficult decisions for the Sharks defensively.

The only problem is what it does to the bottom half of the Canucks’ lineup. Without Roy centring the third line, that duty falls to Maxim Lapierre, who will be joined by Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. In theory, that should be a speedy, defensively responsible line that can create problems on the forecheck, but Lapierre is coming off a fairly mediocre season.

The Canucks need more from Lapierre if they’re going to succeed in the playoffs. They need him to be an enabler. They need him to be Manny Malhotra.

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This is the near-miss that ended Manny Malhotra’s season [VIDEO]

Manny Malhotra caused quite the kerfuffle when he skated with the Canucks at Wednesday’s practice. With Ryan Kesler out with a broken foot and Aaron Volpatti on waivers, Malhotra skated on a regular line for drills, leading some to jump to the erroneous conclusion that he might be returning.

Let’s face it: as much as it would be nice to have Malhotra back in the Canucks’ lineup, it would be a clustercuss of unimaginable proportions. It already looked suspicious to have Mike Gillis announce that Malhotra was done for the season just as Kesler was cleared to play; to have Malhotra return as soon as Kesler is out of the lineup again would be a PR nightmare for Gillis and the team. It would put to lie everything that Gillis said about why he made the decision he did and turn it from concern for a player’s long-term health to a cold-hearted and calculated business decision.

According to Dan Murphy, the Canucks have shown Malhotra video of incidents where they felt he was at a higher risk of injury in an effort to convince him of the danger to his long-term health. Murphy specifically indicated one particular incident, where “if Dany Heatley was Cal Clutterbuck, Malhotra could have been in trouble.”

So, I decided to track down this near-miss to see it for myself. How bad was it, or rather, how bad could it have been?

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Are the Canucks doing right by Manny Malhotra?

Nolan Baumgartner was preparing for his 17th season of professional hockey when the Canucks approached him with a better idea: retire, they said, and we’ll help you transition into coaching.

“I wasn’t gonna retire at all,” Baumgartner told us back in October. “I was gonna play a a few more years.”

Instead, Baumgartner seized the opportunity, which would allow him to get in his first reps as a coach in a great situation, as part of an organization he respected and under a coach he admired in Scott Arniel. Sure, he might have been able to play a little longer, but if coaching was in his future, this was a head start he couldn’t pass up. So Baumgartner retired, shifting from the Chicago Wolves’ blueline corps to their coaching corps.

I suspect the Vancouver Canucks are hoping the Manny Malhotra situation will have the same happy ending. Here’s a guy that has already shown the leadership, intelligence, and skill necessary to move behind the bench. He’s run drills for the team before. He’s mentored and instructed prospects on defensive positioning, posture and faceoffs. The organizations believes Malhotra’s got all the necessary tools to coach, and, since they also believe he no longer has the necessary tools to play the game safely, it would appear they believe now is the time to make that transition.

But Malhotra doesn’t appear to feel the same way.

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Manny Malhotra’s five most memorable moments as a Canuck [VIDEO]

New Canucks blog Bure’s Triple Deke has spent its brief time on the internet absolutely killing it with quality content. They are an excellent addition to the Smylosphere and one of the things they do best is the compilation video. Their YouTube account has several videos worth watching, from Henrik’s top 5 assists in 2011-12 to their comprehensive tribute to Alex Burrows’s patented backhand deke.

In the wake of Thursday’s announcement that Manny Malhotra is done for the season, they have produced the top 5 moments of his career as a Vancouver Canuck. Like Sex Bob-Omb, Bure’s Triple Deke is here to make you get sad and stuff.

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Ryan Kesler medically cleared to play, because his timing is impeccable

Canucks fans got both good and bad news today, both revolving around the team’s centres. The bad news came first, and it was devastating: Manny Malhotra was placed on Injured Reserve, with the announcement that he’s expected to miss the rest of the season. Malhotra has long been one of my favourite players on the Canucks, taking on the thankless job of enabling the Canucks’ offence by starting predominantly in the defensive zone, winning faceoffs, clearing the puck, and getting off the ice.

His two-way ability was clearly diminished after his devastating eye injury, but he was still effective in the faceoff circle and was among the league leaders, winning 65.3% of his draws. Losing him from the lineup significantly impacts the Canucks’ depth at centre.

Fortunately, there was some good news to soften the blow. After practice, Ryan Kesler was coy with the media about how close he was to returning to action. Alain Vigneault, on the other hand, didn’t beat around the bush, saying, “He’s been medically cleared to play and all indications are he’s ready to go.”

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Malhotra to miss remainder of season; retirement imminent?

When Manny Malhotra missed the Canucks’ game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday for “personal reasons,” eyebrows were raised as to what those reasons might be. It turned out to be more serious than anyone thought, as the Canucks announced that Malhotra has been placed on Injured Reserve and will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

It’s now quite clear why Mike Gillis was confident that there would still be a spot for Jordan Schroeder once Ryan Kesler returned. With Malhotra gone for the rest of the season, the Canucks’ have a hole at centre ice that needs to be filled. It’s possible that Kesler will return as early as Friday’s game against the Dallas Stars, at which point Schroeder would likely move to the third line, with Maxim Lapierre centring the fourth line and taking the bulk of the defensive zone faceoffs.

The real question now is, what does this mean for Malhotra’s future? The speculation is that his eye injury from 2011 has deteriorated his vision to the point that he will have to retire, but will stay with the team in some capacity.

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Five options for Vancouver’s third-line centre vacancy

For a brief, fleeting moment, centre was a position of strength for the Canucks. With the acquisition of Maxim Lapierre at the 2011 trade deadline, the Canucks were perfectly structured down the middle of the ice: Henrik Sedin, the super-skilled all-star Art Ross winner, on the top line; Ryan Kesler, the two-way power forward coming into his own as a sniper, on the second line; Manny Malhotra, the defence-first enabler, on the third line; Lapierre, the defensively-responsible agitator, on the fourth.

The Canucks even had Cody Hodgson, full of promise, waiting in the wings. Life was good in Centresville.

That’s when a malfeasant puck made a beeline for Malhotra’s eye, ruined everything, then went on to a starring role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When Malhotra returned in the playoffs, he wasn’t the same player and that continued in the 2011-12 season. While he still played a vital defensive role, Malhotra’s ice time was much-diminished and it was apparent that he simply wasn’t as effective as he had been prior to the injury.

Hodgson, for his part, made good on several elements of his promise, but left Alain Vigneault and Mike Gillis wanting on the defensive side of the puck (and the patriarchal side of Hodgson’s family), leading to a trade out of town. In his place came Samme Pahlsson, who came with defensive acclaim, but didn’t live up it. Now he’s gone back to Sweden, leaving the position unoccupied.

When you add the fact that Ryan Kesler is definitely, totally injured and absolutely still recovering, no question about it, to the mix, the middle of the ice looks positively capacious for the Canucks. Utility forward Andrew Ebbett might be a stopgap, but what are the Canucks’ options for a season-long solution? Here are 5 of them:

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Spitballin’ on Luongo’s return, Malhotra’s kicks, and shinny shindig

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Every Goal, 2011-12: Manny Malhotra

Odd as it may seem, Malhotra was an even more proficient, or at least efficient, goalscorer in 2011-12 than he was in 2010-11. Though he may have dropped from 11 goals down to 7, he did it with less ice time at even-strength while starting even fewer shifts in the offensive zone. He scored at a rate of 0.55 goals per 60 minutes of even-strength ice-time this season, up from 0.47 in 2010-11. Considering his role was almost purely defensive, starting only 88 of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone all season, the fact he increased his goal rate is impressive.

It all sounds pretty good when you put it that way, but Malhotra didn’t have a particularly good season. He received less ice time because he was bumped down to the fourth line. He didn’t receive many offensive zone starts because he wasn’t particularly useful offensively. And while it’s nice to get 7 goals from a fourth liner, when that fourth liner is getting paid $2.5 million per season, you hope for more.

That said, Malhotra was still effective in his role as an enabler. No one else in the NHL came even close to his 13.2% offensive zone starts, the two closest being his linemates Dale Weise and Max Lapierre. Thanks to them, the Sedins and Burrows led the league in offensive zone starts, so at least a few of that trio’s 72 goals can be attributed to Malhotra and co.

But this isn’t about their goals. This is about Manny’s goals. Here are all 7 goals Manny Malhotra scored this season.

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Manny Malhotra, Jason Garrison join You Can Play at Vancouver Pride parade

The Canucks have had a very conservative 2012, and I don’t mean in terms of their transaction history. Between Passion Vancouver praying over Daniel Sedin’s helmet, David Booth bringing that blueberry-hogging bear to justice, and Mark Donnelly singing at the launch of the New Abortion Caravan, the team has been aligned with some very right-wing ideals over the last few months.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with any of these ideals (and frankly, praying shouldn’t be considered right-wing, although it is, thanks to bad politics). But they’re often associated, fairly or unfairly, with some uninclusive ways of thinking, and the Canucks organization has always strived to be as inclusive and embracing of the community as possible.

The presence of Manny Malhotra, Jason Garrison, and mascot Fin alongside the Vancouver Cutting Edge and You Can Play at Vancouver’s 34th annual Pride Parade was a great way to remind people of this.

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Breaking: Manny Malhotra used to have awesome hair

Everyone knows what Manny Malhotra looks like: bald and beautiful. He’s been rocking the chrome dome for over 8 years, so it’s easy to assume that he’s always been bald. I just assumed that he’s been shaving his head ever since he was a kid or that his head simply never produced hair longer than a millimetre.

Nope. Turns out, Manny used to have hair. And not just any hair: awesome hair.

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Apparently, Mike Gillis hates Manny Malhotra

Manny Malhotra has been much-maligned for his play this season. The defensively-minded centre is on pace for his lowest point total since 2002-03 and has been relegated to a fourth line role, drawing criticism over what some feel is a deserved demotion. Personally, I feel that the criticism ignores the unique role that Malhotra plays in the Canucks lineup. As Thomas Drance suggested, Manny Malhotra is the Penny to the Sedins’ Inspector Gadget: he plays the tough minutes so other Canucks don’t have to.

What everyone can agree on, however, is that Malhotra remains a faceoff wizard. Now, it seems, Mike Gillis wants to take even that away from him.

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Did Cody Hodgson take Manny Malhotra’s job? Mark Spector thinks so; Jonathan Willis does not

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ve likely figured out by now that Daniel is far more of an advanced stats guy than I am. That said, while I may not be a massive fan of tables and math, I’m still of the mind that it’s absolutely vital to pay attention to a few of the underlying numbers, especially in regards to the Canucks. Otherwise, you run the risk of coming to some spotty conclusions.

If you’re not following Alain Vigneault’s deployment strategies, for instance, you’re simply not getting the full picture. No NHL head coach pays more attention to zone starts, and it informs every aspect of his players’ statistical production. In Manny Malhotra’s case especially, if you understand his role, you’ll discover that his scoring and plus/minus stats border on completely irrelevant.

If you were only looking at Malhotra’s basic numbers, it would be reasonable to make the conclusion that Sportnet’s Mark Spector made on Friday, when he wrote the following:

“You have to believe GM Mike Gillis would move Manny Malhotra, whose job has been claimed by Cody Hodgson. But with 13 points and a minus-7 this season, we are sad to come to the accepted conclusion that Malhotra’s game has simply not returned in whole after the serious eye injury he suffered last season.”

While there are elements of this paragraph with which I agree (I’ll get to that), there are also elements that show a misunderstanding of how Hodgson and Malhotra are deployed.

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Manny Malhotra takes the shortest shifts in the NHL

Few seem to understand the value that Manny Malhotra brings to the Canucks. The Vancouver Sun’s own Fan Attic, for instance, recently argued that Malhotra is paid too much for his role as a fourth-line centre, noting his lack of point production, his minus-6 plus/minus, and his lack of hits.

Unfortunately, this fails to really account for what Malhotra contributes to the Canucks. He is certainly being paid more than the average fourth-line centre, but this is because he isn’t an average fourth-line centre. The way that he is used on the ice is essentially unprecedented in the NHL and is a key reason the Canucks are successful as a team.

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Pass it to Comics: Community Man and Community Manny build a fort

Pass it to Comics is a twice weekly collaboration between PITB and cartoonist Chloe Ezra. It will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the season. Today, we look at Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra’s other building projects.

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Manny Malhotra was not signed by the Canucks to provide offense, instead taking over the defensive duties of Ryan Kesler, enabling Kesler to stop doing Selke-related activities and focus on offense. This, of course, led to Kesler winning the Selke award as he scored 41 goals. Observations pointing out that this makes no sense whatsoever and that the Selke award is nearly nonsensical at this point are welcomed, but will change nothing.

Even though Malhotra started an incredible 75% of his shifts in the defensive zone, leading the NHL, he managed to finish fifth on the Canucks in fewest goals against per 60 minutes while facing the toughest competition of all Canucks forwards. Oh yeah, and he managed to score 11 goals while doing all of this. In his five previous seasons, Manny averaged 11 goals, 19 assists, and 30 points. This season, he hit those averages dead on, while playing in a far more defensive role. It was an incredibly impressive season that ended in an agonizing what-if, as the Canucks playoff run could have been a completely different story if Malhotra wasn’t struck down by an errant puck in March.

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It was what everyone was talking about, the feel good story of the season. A triumphant return to the ice in Game 2 after no one thought it would happen. It was the longest of longshots that he would be available for the Canucks in this game, but Alex Burrows wasn’t suspended for his alleged bite and was brilliant tonight. Oh, and Manny Malhotra came back from injury. I guess that was also a big deal. I watched this game.

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We hate having to jump on board this story, but at this point you have to ask yourself, what is more miraculous, Manny’s recovery or the infinite legs that this story seems to have? In his very short time here, Malhotra, a one-time prized prospect, first round draft pick and a player on his third team in three years, is [...]

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Okay, so there’s only been three.  But they’ve all been memorable and entertaining games decided on literally the game’s final play. Last night’s tilt ended in somewhat similar fashion to the Canucks’ last game one Stanley Cup Final appearance, when another Greg Adams overtime winner earned the Canucks (and mostly Kirk McLean with 52 saves) [...]

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