If the Islanders needed any further confirmation that they’re a force to be reckoned with in this league, they just added some invaluable outside perspective to their ranks with the acquisition of defenseman Brayden Coburn just before Monday’s trade deadline.
The 36-year-old defenseman finally hoisted a Stanley Cup in his 15th season last year, appearing in just a couple of playoff games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but having been a regular with the organization for five years.
On the Lightning’s journey to a title last year in the Edmonton bubble, they had to get through the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final, which they did in six games to move on to the NHL’s championship round against the Dallas Stars.
“I was telling someone the other day if you’re going to play the Isles in a series, they’re one of the toughest outs,” Coburn said on Wednesday. “To beat this team, it’s really tough. I know last year with Tampa, it was a grind for sure. One that wasn’t taken lightly.”
This season, the Islanders are in contention for the top spot in the reworked Eastern Division as they look to keep pace with the Washington Capitals with the hopes that they can advance a step further compared to last year.
They’ve stayed near the top despite losing captain Anders Lee for the season with a staunch defense that won’t offer many opportunities for Coburn to receive playing time.
“They have a great team, great depth, the defense is a really strong point of the team and I hope to add that,” Coburn said. “I’m here to do whatever they need me to do.”
While the expectation is that he could be a seventh defenseman, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz hinted that Coburn could see some playing time sooner rather than later — regardless of whether or not everyone is healthy.
“Winning trumps everything but I think there’s going to be some opportunity to [play],” Trotz said. “One of the greatest things to have is some flexibility and putting backside pressure on some people.”
It stems from a mutual respect that exists between the two.
“One of the things that I do know about Braydon is that he’s earned that respect for the years in the league,” Trotz said. “He’s gone through all the battles and being a part of that Tampa Bay team, it lends a lot of credibility to your words. Braydon is a tremendous worker, a really good person.”
“He’s just a guy who strikes me as very honest; a hard-nosed coach who’s extremely well prepared and the guys who play for him work extremely hard,” Coburn added.