Braydon Coburn – A Stroke of Genius or a Moment of Madness?

Many eyes were cast towards Tampa Bay Lightning and General Manager Steve Yzerman on the 2nd March when it was announced that they had acquired experienced defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas, along with a 1st Round Draft Pick and a 3rd Round Draft pick for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Coburn, 30, had scored 1 goal and 8 assists in his 39 games this season before being traded to Tampa, and a lot of comments were made stating that for someone with a poor points return for the games played, he wasn’t worth all that was traded for him. This was raised even higher when the move was compared to other recent defensive trades, including Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders from the Boston Bruins for a handful of picks, and Nick Leddy, also to the New York Islanders, this time from the Chicago Blackhawks, in exchange for three players with very little NHL experience in TJ Brennan, Anders Nilsson and Ville Pokka.

However one element of the trade which wasn’t commented on as much was the experience that Coburn would bring to a reasonably young defence at the time. He was brought in at a time when Matt Carle was injured, and Eric Brewer had already been moved on to the Anaheim Ducks earlier on in the season, making it a very inexperienced defence with the likes of Andrej Sustr, Mark Barberio and Luke Witkowski all playing games at hockey’s highest level.

Another aspect of the trade that was overlooked by the vast majority of fans was the physical side of the game that Coburn offers. It is well documented that to have NHL success, you need point-scoring defenseman, such as Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks and Drew Doughty of the LA Kings to name a couple from the last few years; yet you also need “shut down” defenseman, who won’t score many points, but who do the defensive work better than any, and this is what Coburn will offer. For me, this is an area that the Lightning really lack. The points are there from the likes of Hedman, Garrison and Stralman to an extent this season, but the defensive side hasn’t been all there.

This is where Coburn, the 8th Overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, will help significantly, and hopefully propel Tampa Bay Lightning through the Playoffs, or at least further than last year’s efforts.

Involved in the trade going the other direction was the ever charismatic Radko Gudas. Drafted by the Bolts in 2010, and known as “The Beard to be feared”, Gudas was loved by all Lightning fans for his heavy hitting, but was also known to give away some idiotic penalties and have defensive lapses, so on that front, it seemed like a favourable decision to trade Gudas away, especially as his points return had never been worth shouting about, accumulating 7 goals and 25 assists in 126 NHL games.

However, as his forte was penalty minutes, he did amass 224 penalty minutes in that time. When the trade took place, one other positive aspect was that Radko Gudas had been ruled out for the rest of the regular season due to a knee injury, so bringing in a fully fit defenseman to slot into the 2nd pairing with Jason Garrison seemed like a short term advantage.

He amounted assists in back to back games against the Stars and the Canadiens, so the signs looked positive, however in the latter of those games, he suffered a lower-body injury which has ruled him out until the first round of the NHL Playoffs.

Braydon Coburn looks like a very good short term acquisition, but whether or not it will materialise in the long term is hard to judge at this current time.

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