Philadelphia Flyers 2013-14 Year In Review: Braydon Coburn

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of year. We'll go up the Flyers' entire roster, recapping how each player's season went. We'll start with their anchor on defense, Braydon Coburn.

Braydon Coburn

Age: 29 (February 27, 1985)
Contract Status: $4.5 million per year through 2016

2013-14 Stats

GP TOI/GP Goals Assists Points
82 22:27 5 12 17
Corsi For % Corsi Rel % Quality of Comp. (TOI%) Zone Start % PDO
51.1 (2) 1.8 (2) 29.5% (1) 49.3% (7) 98.6% (8)

(Numbers in parentheses indicate descending rank among Flyers at his position with at least 30 games.)

Most frequent defensive partners

Partner Goals For% Corsi For% OZ/DZ%
Kimmo Timonen 48.4% (+31 / -33) 55.4% 55.0%
Nicklas Grossmann 33.3% (+9 / -18) 46.9% 35.7%

A needed bounce-back

The abbreviated 2013 season was almost unquestionably the worst in Braydon Coburn's career with the Philadelphia Flyers. With the chance to take on an even bigger role on the team following the departure of Matt Carle, Coburn struggled immensely, as he and Nicklas Grossmann were never able to get things working the way the team was hoping. Bad breakouts, poor decision-making, all coupled with some bad luck and an injury in late March led to maybe the most forgettable 2.5 months of Coburn's Flyers tenure.

It was so bad that there were rumors of the Flyers trying to deal him last summer. Fortunately, those didn't come to fruition, and we entered this year largely hopeful that Coburn would regain the form that has made him a key piece of this defense for years.

More on Braydon Coburn

And by and large, the better, more effective Coburn that we were hoping on was just what we got this year.

Coburn spent a majority of his ice time this year with Kimmo Timonen, his old defensive partner for much of his time in Philadelphia prior to Grossmann's arrival here. Not surprisingly, that change suited him well, and was a key part of what was a much-improved 2013-14 season for Coburn.

From our own Charlie O'Connor, last January:

The Timonen-Coburn combination has always made intuitive sense, even moreso now that Timonen has lost a step. Coburn's size, physical tools and barely-existent offensive instincts serve as an ideal complement to the cerebral, offensively-creative, but slowing Timonen.

The Flyers have issues on defense, but their top pairing is not one of them. And Braydon Coburn is an active contributor to its success, not a passive observer.

In a year where so much was (rightly) made of the Flyers' lack of speed up and down the lineup, Coburn brought some much-welcomed mobility to the blueline. He looked much calmer and more comfortable than he had the year before, and he pushed possession in a positive direction (the Flyers got 51.1 percent of all even-strength shot attempts with Coburn on the ice), despite frequently being used as a key defensive stopper against the other team's best players.

He was also the Flyers' ice-time leader on the penalty-kill -- meaning he was helping anchor one of the best penalty kills in the league, if not the best outright. And he's as good as anyone on the team at preventing the other team's skaters from keeping possession of the puck through the neutral zone. He was the anchor of the Flyers' blue line this year, and as bad as the defense looked at times, it'd be that much worse off without him.

This all said, Coburn has a lot of detractors, and you can understand why sometimes. He'll commit his fair share of bad turnovers and his decision-making can be suspect at times, which makes it that much more frustrating when you see how smoothly he moves and how easy he can make it look every so often.

And he's certainly capable of rough patches in the wrong situations -- for instance, the occasional game that left him paired with fellow stay-at-home type Nicklas Grossmann would rarely end well. And sometimes he'll have stretches like he did in the Flyers' series against the Rangers, where he was easily the Flyers' best defenseman in two of their games and was abjectly bad in the other five.

But when you look at what he did this year in the big picture, playing in all 89 of the Flyers' games and logging big minutes in so many of them, it becomes clear how important Coburn was to their success. He's the closest to a shutdown defenseman that the Flyers have, and though maybe he's over-cast in his role as this team's number one defenseman, he performed admirably in that role this season by almost any measure.

Uncertainty looking forward

If there's a big question about Coburn moving forward based on his play this year, it's what the Flyers may have to do with him next year and the year after that (and potentially longer, though his current contract in Philadelphia only lasts for two more seasons). Kimmo Timonen is no guarantee to be back with the Flyers, and even if he is, his minutes have slowly been decreasing at even strength for a couple of years now.

What do the Flyers do with him if Timonen doesn't come back? And even if he is, who else can they trust alongside Coburn in a defensively-oriented tough-minutes role? Mark Streit is probably the team's next-best non-Timonen defenseman, and his and Coburn's contrasting styles and good all-around mobility could possibly make that work. But Streit, 36 when next year begins, is likely better off in a sheltered, offensive-based role.

And as for the other options, I'm less than enthused at the thought of any of Grossmann, Andrew MacDonald, or Luke Schenn doing the heavy lifting alongside Coburn on defense. MacDonald seems like the most likely to be bumped up out of that group. But in the meantime, we're guessing that Coburn is probably hoping that Kimmo isn't ready to hang 'em up just yet.

Preseason expectations

Let's check back on our season preview for Coburn and see what we thought could happen with him this year.

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.

Verdict:

The best-case scenario actually comes pretty close to describing how Coburn's season went this year, I'd say. It wasn't as much a "new" partner for Coburn (we had thought back in September that he'd be paired with Streit this year) as it was his old one, but Coburn went back to being the rock on defense that we're used to him being. He isn't an alpha-dog on defense and probably never will be, but he's very valuable and certainly was to the Flyers this year.

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Braydon Coburn's season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e. 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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