Manny Malhotra’s Job “Has Been Claimed By Cody Hodgson”

Jonathan Willis
January 29 2012 09:23PM


Hodgson and Malhotra are pals, not interchangeable pieces.

According to senior Sportsnet columnist Mark Spector, Canucks prospect Cody Hodgson has walked away with Manny Malhotra’s job. Is this true?

Here’s the quote, in its glorious entirety:

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.

Of course, to answer whether or not Cody Hodgson has stolen Manny Malhotra’s job, we first need to understand what Malhotra’s job is.

One of Malhotra’s primary jobs, as anyone who has watched more than one or two Canucks games this year knows, is to take defensive zone faceoffs. How do the Canucks’ primary faceoff men rank in terms of defensive zone starts?

  • Manny Malhotra – starts in the defensive zone 87.8% of the time
  • Maxim Lapierre – starts in the defensive zone 83.0% of the time
  • Cody Hodgson – starts in the defensive zone 51.4% of the time
  • Ryan Kesler – starts in the defensive zone 51.2% of the time
  • Henrik Sedin – starts in the defensive zone 20.9% of the time

There are three groups here: Henrik Sedin, who starts exclusively in the offensive zone, Kesler/Hodgson, who get a combination of offensive/defensive zone duties, and Malhotra/Lapierre, who start exclusively in their own end of the rink. Interestingly, among forwards with more than 20 games played, nobody in the league starts more in his own end of the ice than Manny Malhotra – in fact, the next nearest non-Canuck starts less than half as many starts (percentage-wise) in the defensive end.

Alain Vigneault has adopted a radical strategy that an alarming percentage of NHL media have yet to grasp: he has specific offensive-zone and defensive-zone units, guys that start in their own end or the opponent’s end of the ice more than anybody else in the league. It’s been that way for years now – other coaches do it, but nobody with as much dedication as Vigneault.

Of course, that’s not all of Malhotra’s game. He also kills penalties. Here are Vancouver’s primary centers, ranked by penalty-killing ice-time per game:

  • Manny Malhotra: 2:36
  • Ryan Kesler: 2:13
  • Max Lapierre: 1:23
  • Henrik Sedin: 0:06
  • Cody Hodgson: 0:00

Then, there’s the whole ‘winning faceoffs’ thing that Malhotra does. Here are Vancouver’s primary centers, ranked by their faceoff percentage:

  • Manny Malhotra: 57.7%
  • Ryan Kesler: 54.1%
  • Max Lapierre: 53.0%
  • Henrik Sedin: 48.8%
  • Cody Hodgson: 41.2%

So, to summarize: Manny Malhotra is a defensive-zone specialist at even-strength, a penalty-killing specialist, and one of the league’s greatest faceoff men. He has supposedly lost his job taking defensive zone draws, killing penalties and winning faceoffs to Cody Hodgson, who a) doesn’t take defensive zone draws b) doesn’t kill penalties and c) doesn’t win faceoffs.

They aren’t remotely comparable players. They’re doing entirely different things. The idea that Vancouver is shopping Malhotra because Hodgson has replaced him is entirely without substance.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Cam Charron
January 29 2012, 09:44PM
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Excellent work, Jon. It's crazy how zone starts aren't discussed at all in Vancouver. It's obviously a big part of the twins' success. Helps us ignore how horrible they are defensively.

When Manny was brought aboard, this team took on a different dynamic: it (along with a high shooting percentage) turned Ryan Kesler into a legitimate threat. And now it's done the same to Hodgson, with the defensive zone start rate for Malhotra hitting the lowest number ever for a regular, I'd bet.

Like Dellow said on Twitter, you really stuck the knife into Spec here.

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#3 Pension Plan Puppets
January 29 2012, 09:50PM
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Are you sure this is right? Because Spector has all of that vaunted MSM experience and access. Could he be so spectacularly wrong? Have to say it's probably impossible

Seriously though, wonderfully succinct and clear post.

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#4 Ryan
January 29 2012, 10:04PM
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Great post .

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#5 Woodguy
January 29 2012, 10:29PM
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You can't possibly know all this.

You haven't been at the games or in the locker room.

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#6 John Andress
January 29 2012, 11:37PM
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You are quite wrong. Mr. Spectre obviously has been paying attention and has read Harrison Mooney's "How To Fabricate A Successful Canucks Trade Rumour" posted on Pass It To Bulis on January 28, 2012. Mr. Spectre has all of the required elements in his article which, as we all now know, doesn't need to be true, just sound right. Oh. Perhaps he hasn't got it quite right after all. Good work, Mr. Willis.

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#7 John Andress
January 29 2012, 11:40PM
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@Woodguy

I love this post. It is either the most wonderful piece of irony and sarcasm that I have read in months or the poster is so out to lunch he thinks that it is breakfast time. Either way, it is a masterpiece.

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#8 Earl Von Tapia
January 30 2012, 12:03PM
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This is a fantastic post that shows the true power in using advanced statistics for analyzing hockey players.

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#9 freeze
January 30 2012, 12:20PM
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Spec can see things from the press box that you can't even imagine yet.

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#10 antro
January 30 2012, 06:11PM
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There's way more drama and human emotion to think that Malhotra hasn't returned to his old self, and therefore that maybe the Canucks will part with an old but broken warrior. That's the story.

The irony, as is pointed out, is that Malhotra has completely returned to his old self.

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