Last year, Brandon Manning solidified himself as a bottom-pairing defenseman. On the surface, that may not seem like a great achievement, but for an undrafted blueliner that spent four seasons in the AHL, it’s a big deal.
The 27 year old played 65 games last season, filtering in and out of the lineup, and recorded 12 points. His best hockey came at the beginning of the year and whenever he was paired with the steady Radko Gudas.
His most notable event, though, involved a rematch with Connor McDavid after a tumble by both resulted in a broken collar bone for McDavid during the 15-16 season.
Manning isn’t great – or really above-average – at anything, but is OK at most things. Last year, he adapted well to coach Dave Hakstol’s neutral zone approach of being aggressive and defending the blue line.
However, Manning still only peaked as a fifth or sixth defenseman last season. He’s prone to making mistakes with the puck and has defensive lapses. At 27, he reached his potential last year.
Manning has new competition this season in the forms of Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim. Gone are the days of Nick Schultz. In a better world, Manning may be Hakstol’s choice over Andrew MacDonald.
Manning being a regular contributor in Philadelphia is probably over. Regardless of the two prospects that make the team of the three listed above, Manning will take a back seat to each of them.
Instead, Manning moves into the Schultz role – an injury replacement or a needed change-of-pace at times. Last season, Schultz played in 28 games. But, the Flyers had eight defensemen for most of the season last year.
Philly should have just seven defensemen this season and injuries and scratchings are bound to happen. Manning should see more than the 28 contests Schultz saw last year, but not anywhere near the 65 he did — or at least the Flyers hope so.
Honestly, that may be the best role for the Flyers and Manning. He’s not much more than a sixth defenseman and if he can prove himself in a seventh d-man role maybe there’s another contract in store for him after this season — whether in Philly or not.