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2017-18 Player Review: Brandon Manning will not be returning to the Philadelphia Flyers, and that’s OK

Manning was much maligned by Flyers fans, but was it deserved?

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One

Brandon Manning started the 2017-18 season as a spare part on the Flyers defense, but injuries opened a door and he seized a spot in the regular rotation and PK, and even saw time on the 2nd PP unit. He was shredded by much of the fanbase because he was mistake prone and often placed in situations that exceeded his proper role by the coaching staff. Let's look at how his last season in orange and black unfolded.

By The Numbers

Basic stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
65 7 12 19 56 111 6.31

GM Ron Hextall said in his first post elimination press conference that Manning would not be offered a new contract, giving him the opportunity to test the UFA waters this summer. Since then however, defense prospect Samuel Morin tore his ACL and is expected to be out until February, and Hextall was less committed when asked about possibly re-signing Manning at the beginning of June. Then this morning:

Manning posted very solid possession numbers, especially given that he was usually tasked with playing a role that was over his head. He broke even in terms of CF% (50.0 on the nose) and was a slight positive (+0.9%) when it came to CF% REL. These numbers were similar to 2016-17, when Manning’s role was more in line with his capabilities. That said, Manning’s numbers took a sharp turn in terms when looking at Expected Goals or xG. Manning posted a 48.89 xGF%, which was among the worst on the team (Robert Hagg was the lone regular defenseman with a worse ratio). His xGF REL was also subpar at -2.22%, again only ahead of Hagg among the Flyers regulars on defense.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.98 0.75 6.03 0.32

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For % SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For % SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
50.64 1.26 0.54 52.65 -2.09 51.39 99.63

Basically that translates into Manning generally doing a solid job at shot suppression, but allowing a lot of high danger chances against. That’s more or less what the eye test showed, as there were numerous breakdowns or blown coverages when the pair of Manning and Radko Gudas were on the ice. There were also plenty of cases when they were simply outskilled, especially in the playoffs, when the coaching staff routinely had them facing Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

It’s really not fair to blame Manning for things that were obviously out of his control. A coach expecting a guy of Manning’s caliber to contain a Crosby or Malkin is asking for trouble. But there were enough issues against non-superstar level players to give some credence to the complaints about his game.

Manning showed he could produce some offense and was generally adequate in the offensive zone. He’s not a terrible passer and has a hard, if not consistently accurate, shot. He’s not always great about picking his spots to use that shot, which resulted in blocked shots up high that ended up getting cleared, but, overall, Manning was a decent third pair guy asked to do too much.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to our expectations for this season? Manning was expected to be a spare part and ended up being used as a top 4 defenseman for the most part. Unsurprisingly he struggled in that role and at times that dearly cost the Flyers. However, had he been used in a role more in line with his skill set, Manning likely would have done a solid job.

What do we expect from this player next season? I fully expect Manning to end up on a NHL roster. If a team signs him as a 6th or 7th defenseman, they will get a player that they will likely be happy with. He will work hard, throw his body around and be able to slide up from time to time and handle more responsibility in small doses. If they expect more, Manning will likely get exposed and be a bit of a liability. But he will be a great guy in terms of fitting in and earning respect and could be a solid addition.

What would we like to see this player improve on? Being more consistent in his execution and mental approach. Manning could be prone to misreading plays and making bad pinches. There were times he would lose his man and the defense would get to running around in their own end. But at least part of that is due to the level of competition he faced. Ultimately, Manning should be a solid depth guy a team can rely on in a small role.

All stats are from Corsica and Natural Stat Trick.

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