Guest Post By: Brad Keffer
Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn has always been looked upon as a scapegoat whenever the defense, or lack-there-of, fails to execute come game time. Whether you think shot blocking is a legitimate skill or not, we can hopefully agree that each time someone successfully blocks a shot, it takes a bit of luck involved to not deflect the puck into your own net, or injure yourself (Raffl, MacDonald, Coburn…etc). While shot blocking is a good thing in moderation and can lead to standout plays, when your only role on the team is to stand in front of as many shots as you can, there’s a problem. Players like Andrew MacDonald and Nicklas Grossmann are in the lineup to block shots primarily (with some PP to MacDonald when we’re desperate) and there’s just no upside to that kind of player when a simple breakout pass can’t be made or a puck race is lost 90% of the time. Coburn isn’t as skilled as elite guys in the league like Ryan McDonagh, Shea Weber, or Ryan Suter, but he’d be a good top 4 and a quality top 6 on a championship team with a quality defensive partner like Kimmo Timonen.
One of Coburn’s best games of the season has been shrouded in misery because of his decision to be aggressive in the neutral zone, putting himself out of the play and eventually running into Steve Mason allowing Nieto to win the game for the Sharks. It’s a shame that happened because prior to that one mishap he played phenomenally.
In a game where the Flyers had a total team Fenwick% of 49.30, these 9 skaters statistically played better than the rest of the team. Now, it’s hard to look at this and see MacDonald listed as the top defenseman from the game, but when you look and see that he was paired with Luke Schenn it then makes sense. For some reason the MacDonald/Schenn pairing seems to always work well. While MacDonald did play well without Schenn in CBJ, Schenn is definitely a positive influence on AMac. Now onto Coburn’s partner. I have nothing against Nick Schultz, but he was looked at as a depth defenseman when he was signed and he wasn’t expected to make much of an impact on the defense. Nothing pointed towards him getting top line minutes and yet he’s played well with Coburn while getting way more minutes than anyone could’ve expected. The Coburn/Schultz pairing has been very successful; part of their success could be because their offensive zone starts were at -34.20% and -18.45%, the most defensive starts on the team. It’s also worth mentioning that Coburn had the most TOI out of any other player in the game, including every Sharks player.
More recently, Coburn played another great game against Columbus. From breakout rushes to stopping a 2-on-1 with Johansen involved as the passer, Coburn played extremely well, both defensively and offensively. And again, we see Coburn as one of the “positive” players based on Fenwick. As a team, the Flyers had a Fenwick% of 53.66. Listed below are the players that helped the most to get that number up above 50%.
Fancy stats don’t say everything and no stat can be used perfectly to show how good or bad of a player someone has been, but for Coburn it does help his case that he’s a positive influence on an overwhelmingly lackluster blueline. Also good to note in games, Andrew MacDonald is also listed and it reflects those two games, he did play well besides a few minor mistakes that the rest of the team fixed. I’m almost positive that by the trade deadline, we’ll continue to see Coburn’s name surrounding a lot of trade rumors if this season doesn’t have a complete turnaround. Whether he’s traded or not, Braydon Coburn has in fact been a good defenseman, and would help any playoff team if placed in a top 4 or top 6 role.