Former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $2.25 million a year earlier this month.
The former Flyer has a Corsi rating of 50.9% (in even strength) across parts of six seasons in his career, meaning his team has shot more pucks than the opposition. Last season, Manning averaged 17:57 of ice time in 65 games. He dished out 113 hits and blocked 76 shots. Offensively, Manning scored seven goals (all even-strength) and 12 assists (all but one were even-strength).
Brandon Manning is not a name that necessarily a name that catches the attention of Blackhawks fans, but he has a relatively cheap contract.
Manning has been a little behind the majority of the Blackhawks’ top-six defensemen last year in stats such as points, Corsi rating, average ice time, and blocked shots. This could be concerning, as the defense last year looked very lethargic. The one category he outperformed most Blackhawks defensemen in was the number of hits Manning dished out; he has had two straight 110+ hit seasons in a row. Connor Murphy was the only ‘Hawks defenseman to have more hits than Manning in the 2017-18 campaign.
In the end, someone will have to step up on the Chicago defense. The first players to look at would be veteran leaders and assistant captains, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Aged 33 and 34 respectively, Seabs and Duncs appeared to be running out of gas at certain points throughout the season (at least they blocked shots. Seabrook and Keith led the team with 170 and 165 respectively). Jordan Oesterle, who was signed last offseason as a free agent, was probably the most consistent Blackhawk d-man, as he averaged over 20 minutes a game in the 55 games he played with Chicago. Connor Murphy dished out a ton of hits, and he would be a solid second/third pairing defenseman, but he cannot be relied upon by the ‘Hawks to be on the top defensive pairing.
The message here is that someone has to step it up on the blue-line for Chicago. Seabrook and Keith, who will be earning $6.875 million and over $5.5 million respectively, will need to translate their leadership roles into on-ice production. After that, it will be players like Brandon Manning who will be looked upon to help lead a struggling Blackhawks defense over the next two seasons.