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Coburn a veteran presence on the blue line

by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

Quick, who is the longest tenured Flyer?

Kimmo Timonen? Nope. Scott Hartnell? Try again. Danny Briere? Third time wasn’t a charm.

No, it’s Braydon Coburn, you know, the guy who is going to be the de facto No. 1 guy on the Flyers blue line this year.

Sure Timonen is still around, but at 37 he relies more on savvy and guile than peak physical performance to play the game.

Nick Grossmann? Luke Schenn? Nice players both, but neither are No. 1 guys.

So the title falls on Coburn, who will be looked upon to play big minutes and be the shut down rearguard against the best players the opposition has to throw at the Flyers every game.

And he’s ready for it, keeping an even keel.

“I think every year I put a certain amount of pressure on myself and I expect a certain level of play out of myself,” Coburn said. “But you don’t want to get caught up in a situation where you feel like you have to do more than you need to – that’s when guys get out of their comfort zone. I’ve put a lot of thought into it – about where you want to be. I think I’m an older guy here now and I’ve been part of this defense for awhile and with the young guys coming in I feel like I can be a leader for this team.”

It’s funny to hear Coburn refer to himself as an “older guy” as he is still just 27, but in terms of experience, he is certainly older, wiser and more mature than a lot of defensemen.

It is because of that and because he knows he’s going to be leaned on this season more than ever before to be the top defenseman, Coburn has been preparing himself physically.

His training regimen would make the creators of P90X sit in the corner and suck their thumb.

Six days a week Coburn goes through an extensive, 2 ½ - hour workout that includes a regimen of weights, plyometrics and a core workout that is second to none. The process is so long, that Coburn has videos saved to his iPhone to remind him what exercise comes next.

“If you look at him he’s a big guy who can skate really well – he’s one of the better skaters in the league,” said Timonen, who is recovering nicely from offseason back surgery. “It’s all about experience. You play a lot of games in a lot of rinks against a lot of different players. If you’ve got size and speed and you see the game pretty well, with experience you’re going to be a better player. That’s what it’s been for Coby. He’s going to keep getting better and better. I’ve seen this happen many times with different players – you get that experience and you get better.”

For Coburn part of that experience has been playing with some top tier defensemen in his five years with the team.

He has gleaned important aspects of how to play the position – and more importantly how to be a leader – from some of the best of their era.

“Kimmo is the player he is because he’s so smart,” Coburn said. “He knows how the game is played. He’s such a good anticipator. He’s got a great skill set. He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest guy out there, but he does all the little things right. For me I try to take my physical tools and try to add things to my game. Being out there with Kimmo I see first hand how he plays and how he work as a partner – those are things I’ve tried to add to my game through the years. The experience of playing with him is invaluable. Just to have a guy like that – and other guys – like Derian [Hatcher], Chris [Pronger] and Jason Smith has been so valuable to me. They all rubbed off on me in different ways.”

And now entering his seventh season with the Flyers, Coburn is ready to take on more responsibility not just on the ice but in the locker room as well.

“I’ve played in a lot of different places and played a lot of games that I now think I can pass along knowledge to young guys like those guys did to me,” Coburn said. “Last year was my best year in the sense of being more vocal and being a leader. I think sometimes the best thing you can do is present yourself as a professional and really go about your business in the right way.

“Sometimes guys that are paying attention and watching - that’s what rubs off the most. I remember when I was a young guy I tried to be a sponge and look to see what guys were doing and what made them successful.”

Another thing that made them successful was a consistently optimistic outlook when it came to the teams they played on. There’s a reason Hatcher, Pronger and Smith all have their names etched on the Stanley Cup – because they believed they can win.

Coburn is no different. Despite there being public concerns with the Flyers defense heading into the new season, Coburn still looks at it as a strength.

“Last year you got a good look at some of the pieces on this team,” he said. “At the end of last season when Mez was hurt, [Marc-Andre] Bourdon was a big part of this team. People can be excited about him. He’s got a lot of elements to like in his game. He’s a big guy with a nice shot who’s not afraid to get physical.

“The other young guy – [Erik] Gustafsson – has really kind of blossomed since he first started playing pro here. He’s a guy that really moves the puck well and has a great instinct about him. I know some people compare him to Kimmo and I think that’s a really fair comparison. He’s a little guy who knows how to use his body and is a smart player out there.

“I know Bruno [Gervais] as well. I played with him through the national team programs growing up and he’s a good player who has kind of flown under the radar a little bit, but his skill set is there.”

He sure sounds like a guy ready to anchor a defense. The next step is to see if that translates on the ice. Knowing how solid and consistent Coburn is, the odds are pretty strong in his favor.

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