Anyone who has followed this blog, and my opinions in recent weeks knows what I think about Braydon Coburn. The Flyers defenseman has been, by far, the biggest disappointment on the blue-line for the team this season and has been more of a liability than a reliability when out on the ice at times.
Last night proved to be my emotional tipping point when it comes to Mr. Coburn. In what looked like an innocent face-off in the Flyers’ end during the first period, Coburn was found out of position against the Rangers’ FOURTH LINE and allowed Jody Shelley to score his first goal of the season to put the Rangers ahead 2-1. While it wasn’t the game winner, the goal did prove to be crucial, as it sent the Flyers to the dressing room at the end of the first stanza down by a goal.
However, although last night put me over the edge, it wasn’t the lone instance that annoys me when it comes to Coburn. In fact, his mistakes have been an ongoing trend all season. Perhaps I’m bitter that my pre-season prediction as the “Player to Watch” on the Flyers’ blue-line has – for lack of a better word – sucked this season. Or maybe it’s just the fact that anyone can see plainly with their eyes that this defenseman we expected so much from is, quite simply, not that good. It’s difficult to fathom, of course. And for good reason: if you would have told me in the beginning of this year that I would be willing to trade Braydon Coburn for a bag of pucks (I’m serious) by the end of the season, I probably would have laughed in your face. Nonetheless, so is the predicament that the Flyers and Coburn have brought upon themselves.
Statistically, this is Coburn’s worst season as a Flyer, and it comes at the most puzzling time. Two years ago, his first full season in Philadelphia, Coburn became a dependable player on the blue-line 9 goals and 27 assists for 36 points, his best point totals in his NHL career. Last year, Coburn experienced a bit of a drop off, but was solid nonetheless, scoring 7 times and adding 21 assists for 28 points. With that being said, it was entirely reasonable to expect Coburn to have possibly his best year yet as his self-proclaimed “childhood idol” had joined the team this past off-season in the form of Chris Pronger. While Coburn supposedly had a poster of Pronger above his bed as a youngster, it’s pretty doubtful there are many young Flyers fans in the hunt for Braydon Coburn posters to gaze at before they fall asleep at night. Coburn has five goals and 14 assists, while posting a minus-6 this season. In fact, come to think of it, that poster investment could be a waste of money; tomorrow may mark Coburn’s last game as a Flyer.
General Manager Paul Holmgren has already said he intends to make “major changes” to the core of this Flyers team this off-season. Presumably, he is talking about the players – like Coburn – who the Flyers expected more out of this season and instead are getting infinitely less. Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell also fall into this category. Last week, it was reported that Braydon Coburn was offered a two-year extension from Holmgren as the Restricted Free Agent to be’s contract expires at the end of this season. The catch in the story was that the contract was offered by Holmgren to Coburn’s agent, then not forwarded by the agent to his client. The rumor, of course, was that the contract offer was so demeaning that Coburn’s agent refused to pass the offer onto the Flyers defenseman for fear of insulting him. Perhaps this offer should be looked at in a different light: (Holmgren) “We know you’ve been pretty bad here this year, but we’re still willing to ride this one out with you and see if you can live up to your potential. However, you haven’t necessarily earned the right to command a decent contract.” I think that’s simple enough, and probably the truth.
To be honest, who knows what Coburn’s going to command financially at the end of this season. Coburn is making 1.4 million dollars this season, and it’s hard to imagine a giant raise would be in store for him this off-season, whether he signs in Philadelphia or elsewhere. My take on it is simply this: Coburn has hurt the Flyers recently far more than he’s helped them. Last night, in the most important game of the season to date, was another prime example of how ineffective Coburn actually is.
Coach Laviolette should sit him and bring in Oskars Bartulis for the regular season finale. Sit Coburn down and show him that his spot on this team is not guaranteed, especially when he plays the way he has recently. Show him that as quickly as he’s earned a spot in this line-up, he can lose it quicker. Most of all, show the man some humility. Put him in his place, and make him determined to work harder. Oskars Bartulis is no Norris Trophy candidate either, but it’s fair to say that he can’t be any worse than Coburn has been in the most recent stretch of games. The Flyers have to do both themselves and Coburn a favor and make sure he doesn’t appear in the line-up tomorrow against New York. If he does, there stands a very good chance that they may have written their last page on this season.
And Coburn would have the honor of adding the final period.