Boy, Chuck Fletcher was not kidding when he said he’d be aggressive in making changes to this team. You have to give it to him, he is sticking to his word on that one. The problem is, he seems to be giving up more than he is getting. In Fletcher’s latest move, he traded a 2019 2nd round pick, and a 2020 3rd round pick in exchange for Justin Braun. Braun has a lot of playoff experience, he’s spent his entire NHL career with the San Jose Sharks (which puts him at 84 playoff games to be precise). Braun has been a staple as a playoff regular in the Sharks. However, it does seem to be a high price to pay for a player of his caliber.
Braun is a fine player, but it’s also about what the Flyers gave up. A second and third rounder is a bit steep for someone who is 32, and their best hockey playing days are behind them. In his first six NHL seasons, Braun’s 5 on 5 possession metrics were solid. When he was on the ice, the Sharks took more total shots than they gave up, his corsi was above 50%. However, that changed in 2016-2017 when his corsi dipped to 46.5%, and the following year wasn’t much better. His 2018-2019 was better as his numbers were just below 50%. His fenwick (Fenwick is the same as corsi, just without blocked shots) is even worse than his corsi over the past 3 seasons, except for this past season with numbers at 48.6, 47.3, then 50.5 respectively. It seems as though Braun had a bit of a resurgence this past year, and Fletcher is banking on him to continue that pace. One reason he may have put up better numbers was his ice time. The Sharks acquired Erik Karlsson this past year, which demoted Braun to the third pair. He saw 100 less minutes of ice time than the previous two seasons. This could be a big reason why he played better. The Flyers will most likely use him on the second pair, which is where Braun struggled. But, Phil Myers will be on the third pair, and will look to jump Braun as he is young, and ready to break out.
Braun is more of a defensive defenseman, as shown by his coaches use of him in defensive situations. Almost 59% of his even strength starts were in the defensive zone. The Sharks used him against other team’s best lines a majority of the time. They did this so their other, more offensively skilled defensemen would go up against inferior players. Braun struggled against opponent’s top players, but many defensemen would. On the Flyers, Braun would most likely not have to play that role. One role he most certainly will play, is on the penalty kill. The Flyers’ penalty kill has been horrendous in the past five years, ranking in the bottom third of the league in each of those five years, and having a percentage worse than 80% in four of those five years. While Braun was on the penalty kill for the Sharks, they had the second best kill in the NHL in 2017-2018, and have been better on average than the Flyers. Now, just because he was on the PK, does not mean he is necessarily good, but it’s a step in the right direction for the Flyers. While talking about penalties, he does not take many, only taking an average of 32.5 penalty minutes in his last 5 full NHL seasons.
Braun is a decent player. The price Fletcher paid to get him will have many people sour on him before he even takes the ice unfortunately. He will most likely start on the second pair and could potentially thrive there, but if Phil Myers impresses, the coaching staff should not hesitate to swap them since Braun has had success on the third pair while getting penalty kill time. A quick note on his contract, he has one year left at $3.8 million, so he is likely just going to be in Philly this year, another reason for fans to be down on him. But, in the right role, Braun could be a key piece to the Flyers finally winning a playoff round this year.
Photo Credits: Phillyvoice.com, fearthefin.com