Rarely will I ever write in the first person. Others do, but it’s not a style I prefer. Today however, I am making an exception.
Approximately a week ago, I wrote a piece condemning the Carolina Hurricanes for agreeing to terms with forward Manny Malhotra. The point was that Malhotra is, as I put it, “damaged goods” and probably not the best idea for the team moving forward. While his career with other teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets was worth mention, his stats had gone south in a hurry.
While at the time, this seemed like a logical position to take, if there’s anything a blackjack player can tell you it’s that no matter how good you are and how well you can predict — you never know for sure what cards are coming out of the shoe.
As a commentator, it is my sometimes my job to look at the present and decide how it will affect the future. Sometimes, that doesn’t work out so well and I’m wrong. If I was right all the time, I’d be playing the Lotto, not writing about hockey. Who are we kidding – I’d still write.
The point being, Manny Malhotra, this writer owes you an apology.
I have never been a proponent of leaning entirely on statistics. As much as a stats geek as I am, I often get accused of over-analyzing players on mathematical grounds and ignoring the intangibles. While I do consider the non-statistical benefits of a player, in the case of Malhotra, both areas did not paint a very rosy portrait of his potential to help the team. Statistics just make it easier to quantify these intangibles.
At first glance, Malhotra looked like a disaster waiting to happen. His eye injury last year in Vancouver coupled with the apparent lack of need for another center, made this decision by GM Jim Rutherford look like an absolute mistake. While I stand by my assessment of Rutherford and his lethargic approach to improving the team, it seems the guy got lucky on this one.
In just three games, Malhotra has been lights-out in the faceoff circle and this has been creating early opportunities. While it’s true the rest of the team has zero clue what to do with these opportunities, it’s guys like Nathan Gerbe and Malhotra who are leading the proverbial horse to water. They just aren’t drinking.
I had a sinking feeling of being wrong when I saw the crucial faceoffs and timely passes Malhotra was making in his first two games. It was Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers that Malhotra made me a believer. As a timely goal late in the third from Jordan Staal tied the game that had remained scoreless until nearly the end of regulation, it was Malhotra that came up in the clutch with the overtime goal.
To be honest, one goal a hero does not make. However, it was Malhotra’s skill on the breakaway and oddly enough, his rink vision and situational awareness that allowed him to light the lamp.
As tough as it is for me to admit, I was wrong; Malhotra is the real deal. He has potential to be both an elder statesman and a spark plug to the rest of the team. He and Gerbe could easily be the duo that pulls Carolina out of this funk they have been bogged down in.
With the New York Islanders coming into Raleigh on Thursday, it will be interesting to see what happens with Malhotra and his place on the depth chart, in addition to his ice time.
I was wrong about you, Manny Malhotra – and am sorry.