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2019-20 Season Review: Justin Braun was an inoffensive contributor

The right-handed defender had a decent debut season in Philadelphia, given the circumstances.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers - Game One Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

When the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Justin Braun from the San Jose Sharks last summer, it was met with some disgruntled groans but overall, the trade was just given a big shrug.

Trading a second and a third-round pick for an established right-handed defenseman that no one outside of the Bay Area has given more than an inkling of thought, had to be labeled as the “wait and see” type of transaction. Sure, with just one year left on his contract and Braun comfortably in his early-30s, it seemed like a lot for someone that never really moves the needle as much as you hope for.

Trying to see both sides — it hurt me writing that — one could say that the Flyers were definitely in need of a strong addition to their blue line and especially on that right side. To initially get one year of some comfortable stability for a couple of decent draft picks, might not have been the trade that some saw at first glance. Considering that Philadelphia were able to enjoy one of their best seasons this decade, you can view it as a necessary price for that happiness we experienced.

What was supposed to be one full season of a serviceable defender, turned into an extension because of the sudden retirement of fellow right-handed veteran Matt Niskanen at a reasonable price. But instead of focusing on his future contributions, let’s look at Braun’s first year in Philadelphia.

By The Numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs Shots on Goal Shooting Percentge Average Time on Ice
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs Shots on Goal Shooting Percentge Average Time on Ice
62 3 16 19 18 70 4.3 17:16

The most significant change that happened to Braun’s boxscore was his average time-on-ice. During his time in San Jose, he was used to averaging at least 20 minutes a game no matter the circumstances, but with the Flyers his role shrunk — namely the now-retiree being in front of him on the depth chart.

It was almost an entire decade ago, back in the 2011-12 season, when Braun last averaged less than 18 minutes, but here he was, being part of the bigger picture than out west, and contributing in a different way.

Given his lack of offensive production and penalty minutes, the best descriptor of Braun’s season is inoffensive. He won’t bash his way around the opponent, knocking down their bodies as if it’s Disco Night at your local bowling alley, but he will just be this quasi omnipresent defender, chipping in whenever he can.

You don’t acquire Justin Braun to rack up the points anyway.

5v5 Individual Stats

Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.13 1.11 9.25 0.11

While not a whole lot of pucks coming off of his stick went in the back of the net, Braun was certainly able to blast shots from the point at an admirable rate. While he wasn’t putting pucks on net as much as some of his teammates, Braun was still able to rank 13th among his peers in that category and fourth among other defensemen.

The other metrics are unable to really measure Braun’s contributions to this Flyers team. He has never really been able to get that scoring touch, but he’s certainly made a living doing what he does best.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi For% Corsi For% Rel. Expected Goals For% Expected Goals For% Rel. Goals For% PDO
Corsi For% Corsi For% Rel. Expected Goals For% Expected Goals For% Rel. Goals For% PDO
50.71 -0.8 50.52 -0.86 47.5 98.8

As cliché it might be, the notion that if you’re a defenseman that is barely noticed, you’re doing your job correctly, fits perfectly into the mold of Justin Braun.

As inconspicuous he is on the ice, he doesn’t really sway the possession or scoring chance numbers his team’s way. Some other similarly-minded defensemen around the league can quietly affect the play around them, but instead, Braun is just there; not bad, not good.

Three Burning Questions

Did this player live up to expectations this season?

When the Flyers acquired him, the expectation for Braun was just to be a solid defender that can solidify the blue line on paper. Instead of risking it with Philippe Myers or another Lehigh Valley Phantom on the right side, adding the former Shark meant some calmness to the position.

Considering the fact that the Flyers as an entire team was able to find relative success this season, just adds the argument that Braun was a necessary and good acquisition.

What do we expect from this player next season?

Most Flyers fans were expecting Braun to sign somewhere else, given that Myers was a restricted free agent and some upcoming cap hell with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier’s contracts creeping towards their end. But now that he is going to be a Flyer for a smaller chunk of cap than originally, it might just get one thumb up.

With Niskanen’s departure and Myers’s hopeful rise into the top-four, Braun might find himself on the bottom pairing, but that might just be where he belongs. A solid NHL-level defenseman that can kill penalties is just what he is and nothing more should be expected from him. Just keep on doing what you have already been doing Justin.

What would we like to see this player improve on?

He’s old. Does he need to improve on anything? There certainly won’t be a Chris Chelios-esque rise into middle-age coming from Braun, but he can maybe just improve at being the same. If that makes any sense at all.

We’re used to players his age — especially on the blue line — decline rapidly into a pit of bad contracts with high reputation for some reason. If he can just keep that trajectory a perfect plateau, then everything is alright with me.