Blackhawks fans have been rooting for the team to do something with Brandon Manning since basically the moment Bowman signed him on July 1st. Signing a way-below-average defenseman to a two-year, $4.5 million contract when the team was already struggling defensively turned out to be a poor decision much like we thought it would be.
Manning had the best season of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers last year, but that still didn’t justify the signing. In 27 games, the 28-year-old has just three points with a sub-50 Corsi-for percentage at all strengths.
Due to a logjam on the back end and Connor Murphy‘s return, Manning hasn’t played in over two weeks. Jeremy Colliton sat the defenseman down around this time and let him know he wouldn’t be playing all that much in the future, according to The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. He made it known Manning wasn’t going to be one of his guys pretty early on.
For all Bowman touted him to be, Manning is nothing more than a bottom-pair guy. He has a small amount of offensive upside, but he’s pretty rough defensively. The Blackhawks aren’t going to be losing much and, truthfully, I don’t know what the Oilers see in the guy who broke Connor McDavid’s collarbone.
Then again, they’re looking for as much help defensively as possible. Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli made another deal earlier in the day with Florida for Alex Petrovic to help fill the lack of talent on the blue line. I’m not sure how much the Oilers improved with these moves, but the Chicago Blackhawks now have a huge weight lifted off their shoulders for the next year and a half by getting rid of Manning.
A fourth-round pick for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, Robin Norell never really had a chance with the team due to other better defensive prospects being added to the system in the last couple of years. He used to be one of the ‘Hawks’ top guys waiting for a chance to play in the NHL and quickly fell off that ladder with the likes of Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist now at the top.
After spending a couple of seasons with the Rockford IceHogs, Norell made his way back to his home country of Sweden to play for Djurgårdens IF. In 136 regular season games in the AHL, he recorded just 18 points. In 127 Swedish Hockey League games, he has 20 points. There’s not much offensive skill there, something the Blackhawks desperately need.
Defensively, Norell is good. He’s rarely out of position and skates well. He blocks a lot of shots, which the Blackhawks defense already does. But Chicago needs more puck-moving defensemen and they’ve added them to their farm system through the last couple of drafts.
Maybe one day he’ll make the show with the Oilers. Maybe he won’t. There are plenty of draft picks that don’t work out for teams, and this one just didn’t work out for the Blackhawks. I genuinely hope Robin Norell gets a chance someday, though.