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?
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.
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