Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Manny Malhotra Autographed Picture

Where do I start with this one?

I always liked Manny Malhotra. From the time he was a kid, he was compared to Jarome Iginla all the time: consummate leader, a knack for scoring, unstoppable.

In Juniors, he captained the Guelph Storm to the Memorial Cup, was named to the tournament's All Star team and awarded the most sportsmanlike player of the tournament. That year, he was also named the OHL's scholastic player of the year en route to being drafted in the first round by the New York Rangers. He also captained Team Canada twice: once at the 3 Nations Cup (now the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament) with the undefeated (6-0) under-18 team, and once at the World Juniors in 2000, winning the bronze medal.

But it never worked out with the Rangers, who at first had and then were looking for an immediate solution to the retirement of Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky at center and didn't have time to groom a kid into the role. But four years spent with their AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack (including a Calder Cup win) had made him into an amazing defensive forward.

So the Dallas Stars acquired him because they wanted an Iginla-like player. But one goal in 16 games to finish the 2001-02 season, 10 points in 59 games the following year and no points in 9 games to start the 2003-04 campaign saw him put on waivers and subsequently claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, with whom he would improve his points totals for four straight years, often in match-ups against the opposing team's best lines.

Then came a successful season with the San Jose Sharks (19 goals, plus-17 rating, ice time on the powerplay, a relatively long playoff run considering, you know, the Sharks), before he was signed to a three-year contract on July 1st, 2010 by the Vancouver Canucks, who are looking for a Cup run themselves.

With the Canucks in first place, Malhotra was second in the NHL in faceoff percentage with an astonishing 61.8% and was a major reason for the team being the second-ranked in the league for penalty-killing when he was struck in the eye by an errant puck on March 16th. He has undergone surgery and will miss the rest of the season; while the team remains mute on the subject, it is widely believed he will require at least one more surgery before it is known whether he will recover his eyesight.

Ironically, a friend of mine who lives in Vancouver sent me this autographed picture, postmarked March 14th, two days before the accident. I got it yesterday. While I welcome the gift, my thoughts are more with Malhotra, hoping he'll make a full recovery.

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