Moving On Without Manny

Manny, the Canucks miss you, but it’s not THAT bad.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images North America)

The post-Manny era this season has begun for the Vancouver Canucks. Canucks fans immediately began lamenting the loss of the lauded faceoff man and penalty killer.

Well the Canucks have now played four games without Malhotra and things really aren’t as bad as they seem.

When Manny Malhotra left the game against Colorado on March 16th, some Canucks fans instantly started to worry about their team’s chances in the upcoming playoffs. Malhotra’s prowess all season was a key ingredient in the Canucks rocketing up the standings to an area in the stratosphere never before seen in Vancouver. His faceoff skills and penalty killing abilities helped the team to first place in both categories in the league.

But let’s calm down. While Malhotra is great in two very focused categories, there is ample room to replace his skills.

First off, the Canucks are a great faceoff team, with or without Malhotra. In the four games without Manny in the lineup, the Canucks won 53.96% of their faceoffs. This is only 1.14% below their season average. To give you some perspective on what that means, that equated to approximately 3 additional faceoff losses spread out over those 4 games. In other words, less than one faceoff loss per game. That’s hardly something that should cause panic. Quite the opposite actually. The fact is, the Canucks can win faceoffs without Malhotra.

Then there is the penalty kill. At first glance, there is an alarming stat that jumps off the page – the Canucks have allowed 3 PPGs in their four games without Malhotra. OH NOES! SOUNDZ THE WARNING SIGNAL! PANIC!!

Hang on.

Let’s look a little closer at those goals. Two of their three PPGs they allowed came on the same PK. That PK was on a very questionable 5-minute boarding major assessed to Alex Burrows. So the Canucks were short-handed for five minutes without one of their main penalty killers in Burrows.

Furthermore, the Canucks PK is 16-for-19 in these four games, good for 84.21%. That would put them tied with Nashville for 6th in league PK. And that 84.2% is only 2.1% below their league-leading season average of 86.3%. A 2.1% drop works out to two-fifths of one PPG against. In other words, if they kept playing at that same PK rate, they would have to go shorthanded about 30 more times before it would net out to one more PPG against. And again, that’s adding in the 5 minute major penalty to one of the Canucks main penalty killers. So I am allowing no grace on that call or that penalty, and the Canucks still would have to take 30 more penalties, and kill them off at their current rate before it equalled on more PPG against than their season average.

I can’t speak at all about missing Manny’s presence on and off the ice. We have read many stories of Malhotra’s almost endless leadership and there is no doubt that the Canucks will miss that, especially as they move further through the playoffs. But the fact is that the Canucks, statistically, are proving that, right now, they can win with him. The test for the Canucks will be for them to continue this winning, to learn and remember how to win without Malhotra on their powerplay and without him taking so many defensive zone draws. The further they go in the playoffs, the more they will get to used to it, the more they will find the leadership they need to press for the Cup. And let’s face it. The Canucks have plenty of leadership on their roster right now. Sure, Manny was a real gem but they have the horses to pull the cart along.

Canucks fans, there is no need for panic. Your team is proviing that they can absorb loss and simply roll on. They have proved it all year with the injuries to their defense. They are proving it as they deal with the loss of Malhotra. And they will undoubtedly have to deal with it further as they go on into the playoffs.

This comes on the heals of the latest setback to the defense, as Dan Hamhuis suffered his fourth concussion and second this year. Well today we find out, via Ben Kuzma on Twitter and Tony Gallagher in the Province, some very encouraging news. First, Hamhuis traveled with the team to Nashville, watched the team practice and is making dinner plans. These are all very good signs. We also found out that Tanner Glass was skating today, and that Alex Edler and Andrew Alberts could return to practice this week.

The cavalry is coming, Canucks fans. Even if the Canucks have proved that they don’t really need it.