Everything Else

Tom Wilson – The head halfwit/nitwit/dimwit not just of the Capitals, but perhaps in the entire league. Simply a workplace hazard for everyone around. Wilson hasn’t popped off this season yet, and has been pretty useful on the second line. We know that won’t last, and he did brain someone in the preseason. The next time it happens, he should be suspended 40 games if not more, but the NHL doesn’t have the stones to do it. One day, he and the league will get sued by someone for someone’s rough retirement.

Radko Gudas – The Caps either wanted to save money by swapping out Niskanen for Gudas, or they felt they didn’t quite have the asshole level on defense to match the one at forward. What’s infuriating about Gudas is he is actually a good player when he’s not trying to be Freddy Krueger out there. He’s always on the plus side of the metrics and can be a steady centerfielder for a more adventurous partner. But he just can’t help himself.

TJ Oshie – He still makes engine noises while skating around the ice.

Everything Else

Motherfucker.

Diving into the 2018 free agency pool for defense was never going to go swimmingly for the Blackhawks. Sure, there were rumblings about John Carlson’s availability, but even if he hadn’t re-signed in Washington, paying him $8 million per over a two-term presidency was neither realistic nor wanted, given all the griping we’ve done about Seabrook. Calvin de Haan may have been nice, but he ended up in Carolina for $4.55 million per over four years. Thomas Hickey also could have maybe been a thing, but the 2007 #4 overall pick signed with the Islanders at $2.5 million per over four years. Once those three came off the board, you’d have thought the Hawks would scrape the bucket for a PTO guy like Franson to throw maybe $1 million at.

Instead, the Hawks went out and gave a two-year, $2.25 million per contract to Brandon Manning, a PTO talent at a Thomas Hickey price. ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?

2017–18 Stats

65 GP – 7 G, 12 A

50 CF%, 45.6 oZS%

Avg. TOI 17:57

A Brief History: First off, fuck this guy. Brandon Manning spent most of his junior career sucking, and in an effort to get noticed, he—in his own fucking words—”fought nine or 10 times that year and stuck up for my teammates and made some big hits.” Jesus Christ bare-assed on the cross, Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville actually called Brandon Manning and told him, “We need a guy who doesn’t really score and can play physical.” Just keep giving Q the biddy, StanBo, it’s worked so fucking well in the past. Really good start here.

Manning went undrafted before latching on in Philadelphia—a place nothing less than perfect for a booger-eating buffoon whose calling card was protecting grown men on skates from other grown men on skates—in 2012. He spent most of his career with the Flyera doing nothing aside from tripping and breaking the collarbone of Connor McDavid in 2015, allegedly telling McDavid that he hurt him on purpose during a game in 2016, recanting when McDavid talked about it publicly, then getting his ass punched in by the aptly named Patrick Maroon as retribution in 2017. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT THIS SIGNING?

In his first two full years, Manning spent most of his time in the offensive zone not contributing offensively. Last year was a bit different. He spent just 45.6% of his time in the offensive zone but contributed a career high 19 points. He broke exactly even at 50% on the CF% front. That’s somewhat encouraging, especially since he played most of his time next to living ghoul Radko Gudas and his aircraft carrier forehead.

But as we are wont to do, once you dig into the fancier stats, things look less than good. His xGF% (expected goals for percentage) was 48.89, which means that Manning’s opponents were expected to score more often when Manning was on the ice than the Flyera were. The closest Blackhawks comp Manning had in this category was Jordan Oesterle (49.00), who, as we all know, is one of the suckiest sucks who ever sucked on defense.

Further, his Rel xGF% (relative expected goals for percentage) was -2.22, which means Manning brought the likelihood of the Flyera scoring a goal down about 2% while he was on the ice. The closest Blackhawks comp from last year is Jan Rutta (-2.24).

And fuck it, let’s go even deeper, because the Hawks brass obviously couldn’t be bothered, as evidenced by the fact that they signed Brandon Motherfucking Manning. Manning’s HDCF%, which measures the percentage of high-danger chances for vs. high-danger chances against, was 47.31, good for second worst on the Flyera. This means that when Manning was on the ice, opponents were more likely to take shots from high-danger zones. High-danger shots are more likely to become goals. Since Manning himself doesn’t generate offense and apparently isn’t great at suppressing high-danger shots, it would seem that having him on the ice against anything but bottom lines is a recipe for disaster, especially if anyone but Crawford is in net.

So, he’s a combo of Oesterle without the KEEP FIRING ASSHOLES mentality and Rutta. And all this for just $2.25 million a year for two god damn years. Whose loins aren’t frothing?

It Was the Best of Times: Best case, Manning becomes part of a trade package for Erik Karlsson. Or, with contract negotiations for Darnell Nurse reportedly breaking down, they do Hall for Larssen II with Manning for Nurse. Barring those miracles, Manning plays fewer than 10 games because Jokiharju pulls a DeBrincat and makes it impossible not to play him. In the time he does play, Manning puts three or four points up and wins a fight or two, and the Hawks can trade him for something not called Brandon Manning. If he can’t be traded (he can’t), Quenneville shocks us all by learning what a sunk cost is and makes him a consistent healthy scratch.

It Was the BLURST of Times: We cannot stress enough how asinine this signing is. The fact that he was signed at all is a worst-case scenario. But he’s here now, he’s going to play, it’s going to suck, and it’s up to us to imagine how badly it’s going to suck. Worst case, Manning slots with Seabrook on the second pairing, because Manning played Top-4 minutes in the playoffs for the Flyera last year, a series in which Manning tossed a 48.77 CF%, 35.83 xGF%, and a hilarious -14.88 Rel xGF% against the likes of Crosby and Malkin.

StanBo throws his entire dick into his pet theory that Manning has gotten better with age and is on the verge of a breakout. That doesn’t happen, of course, because Brandon Manning sucks and would be better served in the boxing ring having his dome caved in nightly like the palooka he is. He channels his inner John Scott and becomes an insufferable monolith, both on and off the ice. After serving as a $4.5 million paperweight in his two years here, Manning uses his money to buy and close Al’s so he can open a Wawa there.

Prediction: Brandon Manning is the most Tom Smykowski signing the Hawks have had since Jordan Oesterle. He spent most of his career doing much of nothing, couldn’t hack it on a team that started Radko Fucking Gudas with a straight face, then got a seven-figure settlement as Bowman (read: Quenneville) went drunk driving and smashed into him with a HOCKEY REASONS contract.

So, he’ll spend time on the Top 4 with Seabrook. He’ll be an unmitigated disaster at all times and still get looks over Jokiharju and Murphy because HE’S HARD TO PLAY AGAINST. He’ll stumble his way into 10 points and then be considered for an extension. We’ll get all sorts of think pieces about how much his teammates like him, yet none of his teammates will offer that thought without priming from whoever’s in charge of pushing that narrative that day.

Just burn the whole building down.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Everything Else

It used to be tradition that playoff exits were complimented by eulogies on Puck Daddy. But with Wysh off in the Connecticut hinterlands and those who remain at Yahoo! being a bunch of Canadian giblets who take things far too seriously (and Lambert being angry and definitely not a Bruins fan), we don’t need them to do what we do best. So fuck it. We’ll eulogize all 15 teams that will eventually fall. And now, to the routine of Western PA…

If I were to ask you to sketch out what a Philadelphia Flyers crash-out would look like, you almost certainly would have presented something that looked a lot like yesterday afternoon. Even if the Flyers haven’t done this as much recently as their reputation suggests, you would know exactly what it looks like.

They would take a lead in the second period. They would be running all over the place trying to hit everything that moves, including their captain boiling over. Their crowd would be in a frenzy. They would be on the cusp of a real breakthrough by sheer fury. And then their superior opponent would inhale deeply and say, “Ok, enough of this bullshit.” Then there would be defensive breakdowns everywhere. They would treat the puck like it was covered in space herpes. Their goalie would have an existential crisis and have to stay in because the one on the bench is an existential crisis. They would give up an avalanche of goals in like four minutes, and then it would be over. Their still-Super-Bowl-drunk fans would hurl whatever garbage was hurl-able onto the ice, as the only garbage they couldn’t throw was themselves. But they’ll figure that out one day. It was ever thus.

It wouldn’t be complete without Flyers fans conspiracy/inferiority complex shining through, which I guess is what happens when your city is wedged between a bunch of other cities people would rather go to and your weather level switches from winter to sweat. By the time October rolls around, Flyers fans will have convinced you that the trip on Sean Couturier leading to Guentzel’s goal was a crime on the level of various Kennedy assassinations, even though Couturier looked like he was trying to moonsault a ghost and probably was having trouble standing up anyway thanks to his own teammate shredding his knee in practice. Something about Philadelphia and practice.

Only an organization and institution this rockheaded could just wave away their dumber version of Rocksteady and Bebop d-man, Radko Gudas, handicapping their #1 center in practice because “THEY’RE SO TOUGH.” This is a place that wears it as a badge of honor that they get their sandwiches out of a fucking gas station. You’d think the Flyers would know that running around and grabbing your sac for a whole game eventually is going to leave your defense and your goalie exposed, and yet they dive headlong into it every time. In Philadelphia it’s always 1976.

Lots of people will tell you Cold Ones have a bright future ahead of them. And they do, if you think being the Maple Leafs is a bright future. They could be loaded at forward in two years, but have exactly one d-man worth a shit in Ivan Provorov, assuming Gudas hasn’t broken  his will to live by passing him another hand grenade when he’s already covered. If this series proved anything it’s that Ghost Bear is just a cooler name for Marc-Andre Bergeron (stick tap to Anthrax for that one).

And the Flyers will continue to have a Gudas on their roster, because it’s what they do. Fuck, you can totally see Roman Polak ending up here when he’s finally forced out of the loving arms of Mike Babcock. If we can get Gudas and Polak on the same pairing we actually would have Rocksteady and Bebop on an NHL team.

And when it all goes belly up again because wearing orange turns every goalie into an actual traffic cone, there will be Claude Giroux yapping and running around like a frat boy on a coke binge, without actually scoring any goals that might help his team get anywhere. In his last 19 playoff games Giroux has three goals. But man, he sure got all of Carl Hagelin eight seconds after the puck was gone, didn’t he? And in the end, isn’t that the real truth? The answer, is no. Giroux joins the unfathomably long list of ultra talented Flyers that the city and fans turned into a slobbering dingus with granite for brains and then hands when it matters most.

So long to the Flyers, who definitely are the Flyers more than anyone has ever been anything else. It’s reassuring in a way, the dedication to their character. If the NHL were a movie they would be the scenery chewers. They live in this role and always have, and always will. And it’s always good comedy.

Everything Else

250px-Ozymandias @ phily-cheez-whiz

Game Time: Noon CST
TV:/Radio: CSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Travis Hughes Sucks, He Never Settled The Bet: Broad Street Hockey

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flyers-lineup-card

For some obtuse reason, the Hawks travel to the armpit of the East Coast for a matinee in South Philly this reason. Normally these nooners take place after the Super Bowl and on NBC, but for some reason this one is only on the local outlets in the States. And because it’s a prime weekend matchup, the Flyera will more than likely be wearing their god-awful gold-trimmed 50th anniversary sweaters. But hey, home whites are home whites.