Slightly over two years ago, Braydon Coburn was among the top young defensemen in the league. Then he got hit in the face with a puck and his season ended early. The trade that acquired Braydon was one of the best (at the time) in Flyers history. He's a big defensemen that plays solid two way hockey. He can shoot, skate, pass, be physical when it's needed, and best of all was obtained for next to nothing. In his first twenty games during the end of that horrible, unspoken-of year, he had seven points. He survived the biggest overhaul in team history, and was given an opportunity to play with three great defensemen: captain Jason Smith, future Hall of Famer Derian Hatcher, and current Flyer Kimmo Timonen. He was able to learn from these guys and put together an amazing 07-08 campaign. In 78 games he had 27 assists and 9 goals for 36 points, which is roughly a half point a game. That year in the playoffs he added another 6 points in 14 games and then he got hit in the face with a puck and saw (or didn't see) his season end right there.
The following year, he was supposed to break out and become a legitimate offensive defenseman, adding on to his 36 point season. The Flyers gave him his opportunity to do so when he was paired with Kimmo Timonen atop the depth chart. However, he put together a "sophomore slump" type season, with only 28 points over the course of the year. The bright spot was his solid playoffs with 3 points in 6 games. Going into his contract year, it was expected that he would bounce back this year and play up to his potential. I debated getting his jersey before the season, but wanted to wait and see how he played. Well, for lack of a better word, he was not good. At all. I went with the Pronger jersey in stead. He stayed paired with Timonen but his 19 points were his worst over the course of a full season since he began playing professional hockey. He was on the ice for way too many goals, he turned the puck over way too much, and was just ineffective. Then came the playoffs and something happened. He only had 4 points in 23 games and was a -2, but that fails to tell the story. He was a workhorse eating 25+ minutes a game as a quarter part of a four man defense that was amazing. He got physical, he played smart, and was quick with the puck. Even so, there were a lot of people that thought he'd be out by now. Well, 3 new defensemen later and he's still here. Maybe they are insurance incase we want to get rid of him later, but my money is on him playing, and playing well at that.
With the addition of Andrej Meszaros, Braydon can kiss his PP time goodbye. Maybe that's a good thing? In the best hockey that he's played in 3 years, Coburn only had 4 points in 23 games. He was a solid stopper. Maybe him off of the PP (I forget the exact stat, but Krajicek's PP numbers were astronomically better than Coby's) he gets to focus on the other side of the game. With less minutes this year (that is almost a guarantee) and more competition and skill on the back pair, why can't Braydon Coburn finally develop into the shut down guy that he was supposed to be two years ago. With Pronger, Timo, Carle and Meszaros we have all of the offense on the blue line taken care of. Carle and Andrej being young will be able to handle that offense for years to come, and because both of those guys are more scoring oriented, why cant Braydon fall into a defensive role for the better.
I think this year, Braydon will play about 15-18 minutes a game. He'll score around 25-30 points. His +/- numbers will be around even. But for those of us who know the sport pretty well, we will be able to see a difference in his game for the better. I think that he knows that the pressure is on with Walker and Bartulis waiting in the background. What do you guys think?