Philadelphia Flyers season preview: Braydon Coburn hopes to rebound

"FIRST!" -- Braydon Coburn, probably. - USA TODAY Sports

With three weeks until the start of the 2013 season, it's time to look at what to expect from each player on the Flyers roster. We'll discuss one player per day until the season opener on October 2. Let's begin with Braydon Coburn, who's coming off a bit of a down year.

Braydon Coburn

Age: 28
Depth Chart: Second pairing defenseman
Contract Status: $4.5 million per year through 2016
2013 Frequent Linemates: Nicklas Grossmann (42.2% of time), Bruno Gervais (31.4%)

2013 Stats

GP TOI/GP Goals Assists Points
33 22:37 1 4 5
Corsi On Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QoC OZ Start % PDO
-7.2 -7.9 0.416 40.5 954

The bad from 2013

Most of it, if we're being honest. The stay-at-home pairing of Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann seemed to have a few too many instances during 2013 where they just couldn't get the puck out of their own end, and it led to some problems.

Coburn was forced to take on more of an offense-initiating role, which isn't quite his strength, and it just looked like he was stretched a bit thin. And things didn't get much better when Grossmann went down with an injury and Coburn's main partner was Bruno Gervais. And then he missed the final month of the season with a separated shoulder.

The shortened season was almost certainly Coburn's worst in a Flyer uniform, and was probably a big part of why he was apparently mentioned in trade rumors this offseason. With the bad year, he became a prime candidate to be the team's leading scapegoat.

The good from 2013

Given the situations he was put in (huge volume of defensive zone starts, partners who he just didn't seem to work well with, decent levels of competition) Coburn's possession metrics from last season weren't that bad. And while a lot of the numbers were pretty ugly and he was on the ice for a pretty high number of goals against, he had some truly horrendous on-ice luck last year. Eric touched on the bad luck of Coburn's low on-ice save percentages earlier this summer, and his PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage) of 954 was sixth-worst among all defensemen in hockey last season.

While that's not necessarily "good," it's a sign that we should expect things to bounce back for the better this year. For all his struggles last year, Coburn still led the team in total ice time per game, so clearly Peter Laviolette thought he was doing something right.

What should we expect this season?

While we don't quite know for sure what the pairings will look like, it's hard not to envision that the top-4 on defense consists of some combination of Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn and new acquisition Mark Streit.

Of those, Streit is the one who's most likely to be paired with Coburn, and stylistically, that pairing should work better together than Coburn and Grossmann did. Coburn will be in a role where he can focus on what's going on in his own end, where he works best, and can mostly leave the passing and puck-moving parts of the job to Streit. That should lead to a better Coburn at even strength, and he should also still be able to be relatively successful on the penalty kill.

And, as mentioned above, we should expect his luck to bounce back at least a bit. Steve Mason or not, chances are that Flyers goalies will stop more than 88.8 percent of shots at even strength while he's on the ice this year, and his on-ice shooting percentage of 6.59 percent will almost certainly be improved.

We should certainly expect improvement. How much of an improvement is anyone's guess.

Best case...

With a new year and (probably) a new defensive partner, Coburn bounces back to the high level of play he's shown most years in Philadelphia -- logging a lot of minutes, manning his own zone nicely at even strength and the penalty kill and chipping in on offense every once in a while.

Worst case...

The new pairing goes awry and we see a lot more of what happened to Coburn last year, with him spending way too much time in his own end and the team finding itself in the negatives when he's out there. On top of that, his injury from last season has a lingering effect on his abilities.

Bottom line

Coburn's coming off of a bad year, and he's going to have to show that it was a fluke rather than a sign of things to come. But with a full offseason and a fresh start that will probably consist of a new partner on defense, it seems highly unlikely that things will go as badly for Coburn as they did last year, and if things go right we could see the Coburn of a few years ago that was one of the better stay-at-home defensemen in the league.

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