You remember back in late January when it was presumed that Manny Malhotra had lost his job to then-Canuck Cody Hodgson due to an outbreak in scoring by the rookie accompanied by a marginal increase in ice time. Our friend Jonathan Willis had some fun with this notion, reinforcing that nothing had changed with the way that Malhotra was deployed, or the quality of his play, at any point during the run.
Well, now it has. Malhotra sat out the last game against the Phoenix Coyotes. While he wasn’t a healthy scratch, there’s reason to believe that, in the near future he could be.
Read past the jump to find out who may have taken Manny’s job!
Since Mike Gillis acquired Sammy Pahlsson: Malhotra is seeing two fewer minutes per game. It could be because there are more 5-on-5 situations leading to less PK time, or because the Canucks have found a player who does Malhotra’s job better. Or, maybe, the acquisition of Pahlsson was necessary because the Canucks felt like they needed some balance on the bottom. The fact is, however, that of Vancouver’s 914 team faceoffs in the defensive zone in even strength situations prior to the trading deadline, Malhotra was out for 505 of them.
Now, whether you believe that zone starts are important is inconsequential at this point: Taking defensive zone draws was Malhotra’s clearly defined role, something he did consistently each and every game, moreso than any other player in the National Hockey League.
Has that been the case with Pahlsson around, let’s see…
|Defensive Draws||Offensive Draws|
This doesn’t prove too much, since Malhotra missed a game so he should expect to see fewer defensive zone faceoffs than Sammy Pahlsson. But in the game that Malhotra missed, the Canucks just had to face six defensive zone draws. It’s better if we tally it up as a percentage.
|Defensive Usage||Offensive Usage|
The 38.4% means that Malhotra was out for 38.4% of all the available defensive zone faceoffs in the game he played since the deadline, which is a steep drop from the 55.3% Malhotra put up before the acquisition.
So, Malhotra’s job on the “first checking line” may have been ceded to Pahlsson. We’ll continue to track this and see how it develops, but it can’t hurt for Alain Vigneault to have two guys he can trust in the back. The Canucks’ post-deadline record, however, shows that this isn’t a move that’s paid immediate dividends, but the team has been dominant in possession, with 57.4% of the overall Fenwick events, a number that would have them at first in the league if they played like this all season.
[Data grabbed via timeonice.com]