Should Oilers Explore Terminating Brandon Manning’s Contract?

News broke on Tuesday that Brandon Manning has been suspended by the AHL for a racial slur uttered against an opposing player. There’s not a question as to whether or not Manning did what it’s alleged he did; he was immediately suspended and both he and the Bakersfield Condors released respective statements about the incident. Now, it’s a question about how damaging these comments were.

Manning said:

“Last night I made comments to an opposing player that were stupid and offensive. After the game I spoke with the player in person, which I’m very grateful for. He allowed me to apologize and I took full responsibility for what I said.” He vowed to learn from this and be better.

These are comments from a player who realizes he messed up and is hoping to be forgiven. The team’s statement suggests there may be more coming.

Bakersfield Condors general manager Keith Gretzky also commented when he released the following statement:

“We are aware of an unacceptable comment directed toward an Ontario Reign player by Bakersfield Condors defencemen Brandon Manning during last night’s game. This is a very serious matter, we are disappointed by Brandon’s comment and we fully support the American Hockey League’s decision. The Oilers and Condors organizations wholeheartedly believe in a respectful workplace and will work to better educate our players on appropriate conduct on and off the ice.”

Further to these two statements, plenty of comments have been shared on the matter and the consensus seems to be that Manning got off light with a five-game suspension.

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Will the Oilers/Condors Do Something Internally?

In any day and age, using racial slurs are completely unacceptable. In today’s hockey landscape, everyone pretty much knows that being crazy enough to use a racial slur is a career killer.

Bill Peters Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Bill Peters was forced to resign as head coach of the Calgary Flames for making comments over a decade ago, proving uttering such words has no statute of limitations. It’s a huge talking-point in sports right now and everyone should know if they didn’t before, just don’t do it. With that in mind, no one should be shocked if the Oilers organization decides to suspend Manning further.

How Far Will Oilers Try and Take This?

Each team is allowed to create a reasonable set of team rules which govern specific conduct or conditioning policies. They’re called a Code of Conduct and as we learned this past year, the NHL is implementing one of its own. The question is, “Did Manning’s comments violate a reasonable code of conduct for an NHL player?’ If so, the Oilers could potentially make the case that his contract should be terminated and he booted from the league.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As it stands now, if team conduct rules are broken, the club has the authority to reasonably fine or suspend the player for such an act. This would certainly qualify. But, would the Oilers be able to argue this goes beyond what the team should do? Perhaps they can argue Manning hurt the reputation of the organization beyond repair? Perhaps they argue the league needs to send a message?

It’s a stretch, but this is out there being talked about on Tuesday.

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Manning’s Case: Money vs The Right Thing To Do

There will certainly be those that argue that if the Oilers looked into this, they might be doing so only to rid themselves of Manning’s contract. In other words, they’d be taking advantage of a crummy situation. That’s a fair argument considering Manning is overpaid at $1.175 million per season, not on the team and the Oilers could certainly use the cap space headed into the trade deadline.

There’s also an argument that Manning was way out of line and so much so that his contract should be terminated because it would be the right thing to do to and sends a message that these type of comments won’t be tolerated in the NHL or any other league connected to it.

What do you think? Taking away your feelings about the Manning vs Connor McDavid situation from years ago (we get some people won’t be able to do so), is this something the Oilers should explore? Would they even have a case here?

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