I completely understand why Brandon Manning was in the Edmonton Oilers lineup on Tuesday night in San Jose. I don’t agree with mixing a winning lineup, but I respect Dave Tippett for making sure that every player got a chance to play during the mother’s trip. It’s a small thing, but that absolutely is meaningful to the players and their moms. It was a classy move by the veteran coach.
In the grand scheme of things, however, it is time to end the experiment with the veteran defender. Inserting Manning into the lineup shifts the Oilers defense into its worst possible state. It forces Kris Russell to play in the top-four and on his off side. That severely hampers Russell’s value to the team, and I believe also drags Oscar Klefbom down.
It also puts Manning, at this stage of his career a true ‘tweener’, into the lineup. That on its own can be a bad thing. I will say this, Manning’s first few games were actually strong to my eye and I thought maybe he could fill a role as a depth defender until his contract expires after the season. That’s just not been reality as of late.
Manning was carved up by the veteran Sharks on Tuesday. In fairness, he wasn’t the only Oiler to get schooled in this affair. His Corsi For percentage of 41.67% was dismal, and his -10.33 CF%Rel was one of the worst on the entire team (Numbers via NST). He was overwhelmed most of the night, and was handled easily on one particular instance by Patrick Marleau. Marleau, at least lately, has been a shell of himself.
Manning’s Fenwick For percentage was even worse. He finished last night’s game with a 37.5% FF%, -14.35 relative to his teammates. That is extremely poor. In the end, Manning only played 8:13, nearly half that of his partner Matt Benning (16:25). Essentially, Tippett had to go to five defensemen for most of the game. You won’t win many games when playing shorthanded like that.
Manning has handled a tough situation with grace. He signed a two-year deal worth $4,500,000 with Chicago as a free agent in 2018, but things could not have worked out worse. He was traded before New Year’s, and ended up finishing that first season in the AHL. This year, he wasn’t given any kind of chance to make the Oilers out of training camp.
It’s hard not to respect how Manning has handled a tough situation. He’s never once complained and has continued to work hard.
The thing is, the Oilers have a decision to make within the next ten days. Adam Larsson is getting close to a return and could be in the lineup as early as next week. The Oilers are going to need to send a body out to accommodate his return from IR.
Most observers point to Joel Persson as the man who will be sent to AHL Bakersfield. After all, Persson does not need to clear waivers and could benefit from a stretch in California. I think Manning should be the one waived and assigned to Bakersfield for the time being.
The odds that Manning are claimed off waivers are slim to none. Even if he is, Ken Holland would be catching a break. Manning getting claimed would save the Oilers a spot on the 50-man list and cut over $2,000,000. Persson can serve as the seventh defenseman while Larsson works his way back into the lineup.
Odds are, it won’t work that way. Tippett is a veteran coach and veteran coaches love veteran players. He’s already given Manning more leash than anyone expected coming into the season. Odds are, he’ll want to keep the veteran around as his extra body, even when Larsson returns.
The numbers do not lie, however. Manning has been a negative when it comes to possession and hasn’t provided much when in the lineup. The Oilers have better options both on their current roster and in Bakersfield. It’s time to end this experiment with the veteran when Larsson returns.