Part 14 of my Tampa Bay Lightning player evaluation is finally here, and it is going back to the blue-line.
The Lightning had one of the strongest defensive cores in the league in a lot of people’s minds, and that might just be because of the stellar season the whole team had. But yet, despite all the love the blue-line gets, the top four gets most of the credit.
But what about the bottom 2 defensive pair and the Lightning’s 7th defenseman?
I’m here to show you that they, too, contributed towards the Lightning’s success. First, let’s start off with Braydon Coburn, who was recently signed to a 2 year deal worth an average of $1.7M per year.
Last season, Coburn played 74 games, recording 4 goals and 19 assists (23 points), which was his best season, from a production standpoint, since the 2011-12 NHL season. He averaged 16:07 time on ice, with a perfect 50% distribution of offensive and defensive shift starts. With the 50/50 on-ice distribution, he went on to have a 52.6 Corsi-For%, his best CF% since the 2009-10 NHL season. He had a takeaway to giveaway ratio of 17 to 22, which is a -5 differential.
While that may not seem good, it isn’t all bad, as he doesn’t really generate giveaways or takeaways. He recorded a 100.1 PDO, which is just a hair above the average PDO of 100, which tells me he is only slightly more lucky than the average NHL player.
When Coburn was on the ice, the Lightning had an expected goals for of 51.1 and an expected goals against of 45.9, which is a +5.2 differential. What that tells me is he pushes the tempo of play up ice, but isn’t always super reliable in his own end. Now, that may not be so true, so stay tuned.
Coburn has always been thought of as a stay-at-home defenseman, generally. But while his point totals back that up, his expected goals for when he’s on the ice tells me otherwise. It tells me his loves pushing the play up ice, and trying to generate some sort of offense. By using my own spider graph, we can determine where he stands on both the offensive and defensive ends.
visual created by Kyle Pereira, stats from CJ Turtoro
Coburn (blue) is hands down, far and away, the best defenseman among the bottom 3 defenders on the Lightning roster when it comes to shooting. He shoots way more in general (Shots60), and generates more offense off of his shooting (ShotContr60, ShotAssists60) by quite a bit. He’s also far better at entering the offensive zone (PossEntry60, PossEntry%) by a wide margin as well. He stands out less when exiting, or breaking out, of the defensive zone (PossExit%, PossExit60), but is still better than the other two on the graph. Finally, his worst categories. All players on the graph mark around the same area on the graph when it comes to breaking up an opponent trying to enter the zone (Breakups60), ranks second when it comes to allowing entries over a 60 minute span (PossEntryAllw60), and then ranks dead last when it comes to how many he allows over the total amount of entries he has to break up, or defend against (PossEntryAllw%). But his prowess over the other two depth options is the reason why Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois gave him a new contract.
Coburn’s Exits per 60
But, to dive deeper into his success, let’s check out CJ Turtoro’s Exit per 60 minute visual.
visual created by CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder
Coburn ranks 11th on the Lightning roster when it comes to breaking out of the defensive zone. He has a fairly decent workload, just about even with Anton Stralman for the amount of breakout attempts. He relies more heavily on his dumps and clears, rather than passing or skating it out. That’s the reason why his seemingly good breakout game doesn’t translate to the spider graph, because the spider graph looks specifically at controlled breakouts and not chipping the puck out and away. He ices the puck a lot, which isn’t necessarily good, but it isn’t a huge problem, but that should still be brought down a little bit for next season. He has a high fail mark, which is the worst part about his graph. However, he goes for clearing the puck rather than a controlled breakout, and his clear attempts might be getting knocked down at the line often enough for it to negatively affect his game. All in all, however, he’s just alright at getting the puck out of the defensive zone.
Coburn’s Entries Per 60
Now, let’s look at CJ Turtoro’s Entry per 60 minute visual to see how truly good Coburn is at breaking into the offensive zone and driving the offense.
visual created by CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder
According to the visual, Coburn had the third highest workload amongst defenseman when it came to entering the offensive zone, ahead of even Victor Hedman, but ranked just 5th on the team. He had a decent amount of controlled entries, where he passes to a teammate or skates it in himself, but just like all the other defensemen, he looked more for a quick dump in to get the job done. He doesn’t fail very often, considering how often he tries entering the offensive zone, so that’s not a problem there. Being a bottom pair defenseman, who is basically known around the entire league as a defensive defenseman, these are solid stats.
Break-Up % vs Possession Exit %
But to truly evaluate how good a defenseman is at, well, defending, we have to use Sean Tierney’s Controlling the blue-line visual.
visual created by Sean Tierney, stats from Corey Sznajder
Coburn, highlighted on the graph, does not have a high breakup%, which ultimately means that he allows the opposing team to enter the Lightning defensive zone more than he stops them from doing so. While that may sound really bad, and it surely isn’t good, he was just a little below Hedman and well above Mikhail Sergachev in that metric. Where he really struggled, which we touched on earlier and isn’t necessarily the case, is his controlled Possession Exit%. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good, and that tells me he just goes in and does whatever the coach asks of him.
Coburn is a very simple minded defenseman. You want him to get the puck out of the defensive zone, he will clear the zone one way or another. You want him to drive the offense and move the puck up the ice, he will move the puck up ice and drive the offense. If you want him to generate shots, he will shoot. He doesn’t play a flashy, risky game, but rather a slower, simpler game. He’s a very low risk, potentially high reward player, and for a guy to do that while averaging bottom D pair time on a night to night basis, that’s pretty solid, to me.
All stats via Hockey-reference
Spider graphs created by Kyle Pereira, data gathered by CJ Turtoro
Controlling the Blueline visual from Sean Tierney
Featured Image Photo Credit – Dinur Blum