Justin Braun has been around the NHL for quite a while now, and has experienced the highs and lows of playing professional hockey. Right now, it must be a fairly deep low for the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman.
After the Pittsburgh Penguins handed them their fourth consecutive loss on Thursday, the Flyers have a 13-15-6 record and just about half the roster either injured or in COVID protocol. Things are not great! So when Braun was asked to compare this leadership group and the general ability to pick themselves up for significant games at this moment, he went ahead and compared his current situation to one that he knows very well.
Before Braun was traded to Philadelphia, he spent his entire career with the San Jose Sharks. Nine years of important games surrounded by some Hall-of-Fame talent, which brings up some good memories of what they went through, in relation to the present day.
“We had a little bit of both,” Braun said about the Flyers’ opponents on Saturday. “[Thornton] did a good job of holding guys accountable. You had guys like [Pavelski] who would just go out there and get the job done. We had that culture for a long time there, when I showed up. It was: ‘We’re gonna be tough to play at home.’ You had to be ready to go every night or you were gonna hear it from either the guys or the coach. The accountability there was good.
“I think we need to get to a point where we’re like that here. We’re ready to go from the drop of the puck, we know we’re not gonna lose that night. You’ve just got to have that mindset that no matter if a bad thing happens, you’re just gonna keep working through it and you’re gonna get the job done.”
It certainly doesn’t help to have Joe Thornton or even Patrick Marleau around to pick the team back up, but it appears to be a stark reminder of those important off-ice attributes that the previous Sharks teams seemed to possess.
And maybe the Flyers could use some of that calming leadership right about now.
Considering that trading the longtime captain of this team is feeling more inevitable with every passing day, and an unimaginable on-ice miracle would need to happen for this team to reach the postseason; the Flyers management and veteran players will need to take a long and hard look at what this team really is and what they need to do here.
Whether it’s the off-ice issue of trying to find the right gel of players, and someone on the bench that can force this team into outperforming their talent level — as some other teams around the league — we won’t find out the answer until the all-important off-season.