I think we need to get a picture of Justin Braun and put it on a milk carton. Where is he? Have you seen him? He’s been a healthy scratch in just five of the 38 games the Flyers have played. However, most of them have been as of late. He has played just one game since Christmas: the 4-1 victory over Anaheim.
If you want to blame anyone for Braun’s disappearance, it is Cam York’s fault. York has come up and been amazing. In 11 games, he has one goal and six assists. You can also trace the Flyers’ resurgence to York’s arrival as they have gone 5-3-3 (Granted…a lot of people got healthy during this time as well. It’s not all York). His youth and offensive abilities have helped to jumpstart this offense.
Which means that someone on the defense has to sit. Tony DeAngelo was benched to get him back to where he should be and he has responded well. Ivan Provorov is having a fine bounce-back season. Travis Sanheim looks as if he is on pace for a career year. This leaves us with Nick Seeler, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Braun.
Justin Braun has a lot of work ahead of him on the Flyers
Seeler is having his best statistical year. More importantly, for a team that is cash-strapped, Seeler is cheap. Ristolainen is not cheap. While his offensive skills have been lacking this season (he just earned his first point of the season on this California road trip), he is playing better defensively this year. That leaves us with Braun.
Braun, at the age of 35 (he’ll be 36 in February), is the old man of the group. He has no points, but he has never been much of a point scorer. He has a +1 rating and has spent only 17 minutes in the penalty box; meaning he doesn’t take stupid penalties to put this team down. He is a steady defender who is appreciated by Coach John Tortorella because he does a lot of the fundamental things. He has value.
When the Flyers resigned him in the offseason, I was pleased. He came back on a cheap $1 million deal that, again, a cash-strapped team needed. He has provided a veteran influence that is lacking. It is a veteran leadership that could be valuable during the trade deadline. Teams can always use a good, solid, reliable blueliner. Last year, the Flyers dealt him to the Rangers for a third-round pick. That’s a pretty good haul for an older veteran rental.
I’m not sure the Flyers will get that sort of haul for him this year. Then again, it depends on who needs his services. Any contending team that has a sudden injury near the trade deadline could get desperate.
Braun, a 7th-round pick in 2007, has had an awesome career. He’s played 13 years in the NHL as a reliable, steady defender. But his time with the Flyers is probably at an end soon. It would be nice to see him lift the Stanley Cup as he so richly deserves to. But the recent scratches tell us that his services are no longer needed, sadly, in Philly. He is now the Flyers’ seventh defender. That is not a role he deserves.