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Canucks hire Manny Malhotra as head coach of the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL

The Abbotsford Canucks will have a new head coach next season, as Manny Malhotra has been hired from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Manny Malhotra will be back in the Vancouver Canucks organization with the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL. photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP

The Abbotsford Canucks will have a new head coach next season and it's a familiar face for Canucks fans.

After four seasons as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Manny Malhotra will be the new head coach in Abbotsford.

“Bringing in someone who is familiar with the organization is a big win for us,” said Vancouver Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin in the team's press release. “Manny’s experience in hockey development and coaching has prepared him really well for this head coaching opportunity. We look forward to working with him and providing our staff in Abbotsford all the support they need to continue to develop our players.”

The news comes after reports that Jeremy Colliton, who coached Abbotsford for two seasons, rejected a contract offer from the Vancouver Canucks. There were suggestions that he wanted to be open to an NHL coaching job and clauses in his two-year contract offer restricted him from pursuing NHL jobs. 

Malhotra played two full seasons with the Canucks in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and they happened to be two of the best seasons in franchise history, as they won the Presidents' Trophy both years. He took on the thankless role as a checking-line centre, starting shifts in the defensive zone against tough competition to help free up the team's top-two lines to focus on producing points.

He then returned to the Canucks organization as a development coach for four seasons, working with players on specific skills in practices, particularly faceoffs. When he got the chance to work behind the bench with the Maple Leafs, he jumped at the opportunity

Now, Malhotra is taking the next step in his coaching journey, becoming a head coach in the AHL. Coaching has long been a dream for Malhotra, nurturing a seed planted by Ken Hitchcock when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“At that point, I had played for a lot of coaches in a lot of different systems,” said Malhotra, “and for the most part, you’re always just told, ‘Do this. This is what we’re doing.’ Whereas for Hitch, he gave you the ‘Why.’ And for me, it was kind of like a lightbulb moment.” 

“That’s when I started to have that seed in my mind that I think I would enjoy coaching,” he added.

The Canucks have seen some success with Abbotsford as a developmental system, with Nils Höglander returning to Vancouver as a more complete player after a stint in Abbotsford and the development of players like Noah Juulsen, Nils Åman, Arshdeep Bains, and Linus Karlsson as depth contributors.

Malhotra's strengths as a communicator and someone who had to change his game to make it in the NHL should translate well to his new role in Abbotsford.

“Being able to return the to the Vancouver Canucks organization is an incredible opportunity for both me and my family,” said Malhotra in the press release. “Getting the chance to help develop the next wave of young talent is an honour and a privilege. We have a lot of good prospects in the group, and I can’t wait to get started on the ice."