Yesterday, we learned that the Canucks will be without Manny Malhotra for the rest of the season due to eye injury. It was difficult to digest, and not just because Malhotra is a fantastic human being who doesn't deserve this terrible misfortune. Also, because Malhotra has been an invaluable member of the Canucks forward corps this season, and his contributions are irreplaceable. Since joining the team in the offseason, Manny has enlivened Vancouver's faceoff percentage, given their third line a cohesive identity, allowed the Canucks' offensive superstars to focus on scoring, and even reversed the Canucks' bad luck with bald players (after such winners as Eric Weinrich and Jan Bulis). Malhotra has done a lot, and his absence will be impossible not to feel.
But this doesn't mean the Canucks can't win without him, because they can. In fact, it's likely that they will win because of this unfortunate incident. I say this not to be insensitive or flippant, but because I've watched a lot of sports movies, and if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that no team can win the championship until a role player goes down with an injury, thereby giving the team somebody to do it for.
It's a staple of sports films:
When everything seems to be going perfectly for the protagonist(s), one of the team members or supporting characters gets injured, providing an emotional roadblock that eventually becomes even further motivation to win.
The examples are endless: Gerry Bertier in Remember the Titans. Chet "Rocket" Steadman in Rookie of the Year. Adam Banks in Mighty Ducks: 2. James "Boobie" Miles in Friday Night Lights. Kelvin Owens in Gridiron Gang. Walter Cochran in The Replacements. Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. Carver in the woefully underrated Bring it On.
As far as I'm concerned, Malhotra's untimely injury basically guarantees us the title, by virtue of the precedent set in the movies I've watched. And ignore the so-called "critics" who would dismiss my optimism by calling this sports movie trope a "cliche," just because it's in a lot of movies. If you're unconvinced, your beef is with history; most of these movies are based on true stories (especially Mighty Ducks 2, which is very realistic--Iceland is a notorious hockey powerhouse).
Alain Vigneault said as much: "I think, to some extent, this could be a good rallying point for the guys." Good is an understatement. Crucial is more like it. No word on whether the entire team will shave their heads in solidarity. If they don't, from where I'm sitting, they're wasting a bonding opportunity. Imagine it: bald heads, playoff beards... it'd be a whole team of Shel Silversteins. Have you ever read The Giving Tree with a loved one? It's an emotional roller coaster. Shel Silverstein brings people together.
The evidence is incontrovertible. Manny Malhotra, consummate leader that he is, has gone down for the season to give the team that final piece of motivation and unity. He may not be on the starting roster, but Manny Malhotra is our angel in the outfield.
Disclaimer: I wish it went without saying, but this post is satire. In truth, Malhotra's injury is much bigger than hockey, he is in our prayers, and we wish him a speedy and complete recovery.