Astral shift in wotlk? Huh face..Shamans have always been the move "glass cannony" class. In wotlk ele shamans relied on their heals as defense and Astra Shift while stunned which helped them a lot, also with high armor they were more of a turret-like cannon.
But seeing as cata removed their heal efficiency and since armor didn't matter that much, combined with lava burst doing shit dmg due to the flame shock talent that would reset LvB.
Now we're in MoP where everybody relies on burst cooldowns.
Armor kind-of matters IMO and the heals are very good (until 5.1 that is), and since ele shamans finally have a defensive tier they CAN be more defensive than wotlk/cata.
Seeing ele shamans have the best on demand burst if they can pull it off right now they shouldnt have too many defensive abilities. They still have earthgrab totem/absorb totem when specced into and they have a stun.
If you ask me your brother just rolled the wrong class or doesn't know how to play defensively. If he wants to be more tanky than he should've rolled a mage or something.