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Canucks’ Malhotra done for the year over concerns about his eye; retirement to come?

Harrison Mooney
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The Vancouver Canucks will be without centre Manny Malhotra for the remainder of 2013. On Thursday, they announced that he's been placed on injured reserve through to the end of the year. From a release:

The Vancouver Canucks announced today that centre Manny Malhotra has been placed on Injured Reserve and will miss the remainder of the 2012.13 NHL season.

“The long term health of Manny Malhotra is of utmost importance to our organization,” said Michael D. Gillis, President and General Manager, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. “Throughout his career Manny has showcased his indispensability through skilled play, being a consummate professional and leader in the room while also continuously giving back to the community. Manny will continue to be a valued member of our organization.”

There are still a lot of questions to be answered in this surprise announcement, but the release gives a few hints at a few answers.

According to Bob McKenzie, the issue that will be sidelining Malhotra for the duration of the season is the same one that took him out of the Canucks' lineup late in the 2010-11: his left eye, which was struck by a puck in a freak deflection late in game versus the Colorado Avalanche on March 16.

A series of surgeries and a medical miracle allowed Malhotra returned to the Canucks' lineup just in time for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Still, he admitted that his vision in that eye would never be 100%. And, after completing the series versus the Bruins, Malhotra had more procedures in the summer.

Now it would appear that the condition of his eye has deteriorated enough to raise questions about his safety on the ice, which, considering the speed of the game, the threat of hitters and the need for complete peripheral vision, makes a lot of sense. If Malhotra's blind side is larger than most players, he's putting himself at risk, and he knows it. When Gillis says, "The long term health of Manny Malhotra is of utmost importance to our organization," I'd hazard a guess that this is what he's referring to.

The final lines of the release indicate that Malhotra's career is over -- "Throughout his career Manny has showcased his indispensability through skilled play" -- although he hasn't made that decision yet. The centre will spend the rest of the season on long-term injury exception, then re-evaluate.

In the meantime, he'll get a taste of what his post-hockey career will be like. Malhotra has already done a lot of coaching work with the Canucks, teaching young centres how to improve their faceoff techniques and running drills and practices. The final line of the release indicates that he'll likely do more of that. If he finds that it's enough to satisfy his need to be on the ice, I suspect that we've seen the last of Manny Malhotra as a player.

It's a shame. When Malhotra was healthy in his first season in Vancouver, the Canucks were able to roll their top three lines comfortably. With Malhotra on the roster, Alain Vigneault developed some of the most extreme deployment strategies in the league, sending Malhotra out almost exclusively for defensive zone faceoffs so that Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler could start closer to the opposing net. Malhotra's unique role as an offensive enabler and shutdown centre earned him discussion as a dark horse Selke candidate.

Speaking of Ryan Kesler, he appears to be ready to jump back into the lineup. His return originally looked as though it might displace rookie Jordan Schroeder. Does Malhotra's absence open up a permanent spot for the rookie centre?

Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney

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