The Islanders still have some work to do before they can punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs but they also have some bigger goals in mind.
If you’re the Islanders, you have to think bigger, especially after reaching the Eastern Conference Final last season so as the regular season winds down, the Isles have some long-term objectives that are bigger than just qualifying for the postseason. The islanders are currently battling the Capitals and Penguins for the East Division title but the ultimate goal is winning the Stanley Cup, something the Isles were six wins shy of doing in the bubble last season.
In order to complete their “bigger” objectives, the Islanders got “bigger” at the trading deadline boosting their depth up front by acquiring forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils last week. And then, in what some people might view as an under the radar acquisition, the Islanders sent a 7th round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night in exchange for veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn.
For a team, like the Islanders, that plans on competing for a Stanley Cup, Coburn is a player that checks a lot of boxes.
“What we do get is an experienced defenseman who has size and strength,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “He has tremendous character and knows his role and accepts it. We couldn’t be more delighted than to be able to get him.”
The Islanders will be the fifth team that the 36-year-old Coburn has played for during his 15-year career. Last season, the native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and with 137 career post-season games on his resume, he brings a wealth of experience to the Islanders whether he’s in the lineup or not. He joins Nick Leddy as the only two players on the Islanders active roster who have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
“I don’t think you can ever have enough experience,” said Lamoriello. “Especially when they’re quality people and they’re great teammates. I think we were trying to find the best defenseman that we could to play that support role that he will play and he was the best.”
Coburn gives the Islanders some more depth on their blueline but he also gives them another big frame at 6 feet 5 inches and 224 pounds. He joins an Isles defense group that already has big bodies like Scott Mayfield (6’5”), Ryan Pulock (6’4”) and Noah Dobson (6’4”).
“I think he’ll fit right in,” said Adam Pelech who is no slouch himself at 6 feet 3 inches tall. “He’s a guy that’s been around for a long time. He’s a tough guy. We’re excited to get someone like that. It’s always great to add that size. Whenever you can add a big mean d-man like that, it’s definitely going to help the team.”
With the Islanders potentially having to get through teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, and Boston just to get out of the East Division, adding a player like Coburn at the deadline was huge. The Islanders have basically gone with the same six defensemen (Mayfield, Pelech, Pulock, Nick Leddy, Andy Greene, and Noah Dobson), but Coburn now gives the Islanders another option with a busy schedule coming up.
“We’ve got a couple of back to backs,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “All the teams in our division are big. Washington got bigger with (Anthony) Mantha and (Michael) Raffl. I think Boston got a little bit bigger. We’ve added two guys (Coburn and Zajac) that make us a little bit bigger and Pittsburgh did with (Jeff) Carter. A guy like Coburn might fit in really well against some of those teams.”
When will Coburn don an Islanders jersey for the first time?
It will have to wait a few days.
Coburn received a COVID-19 test on Monday morning before leaving Ottawa for Long Island. According to New York State quarantine protocols, it will take four or five days and testing before Coburn is able to join the Islanders. One of those back-to-back situations that Trotz mentioned comes up later this week when the Islanders face the Bruins in Boston on Thursday and Friday and then they face the Flyers, another of Coburn’s former teams, on Sunday in Philadelphia.
The addition of Coburn is certainly a depth move, but don’t be surprised if he gives the Islanders a special moment or two, especially come playoff time if he gets that opportunity.
It could be a big defensive play, a punishing hit, or maybe it’s some advice or knowledge from his 15 years of experience that he could pass on to one of the younger players. In last year’s postseason, the Islanders lost Johnny Boychuk to injury in the first game against Florida and that gave Andy Greene an opportunity. Then, in the conference finals against Tampa, Adam Pelech got hurt in game five and that opened the door for Noah Dobson to play in game six.
Braydon Coburn saw first-hand how close the Islanders came to winning it all in the bubble last season because he was on the team that was able to knock them out and ultimately win the Stanley Cup. He now has a chance to help the Islanders take care of some unfinished business.