The Tampa Bay Lightning made one big addition to their roster at the trade deadline -- 6'5 defenseman Braydon Coburn, previously of the Philadelphia Flyers.
While he's still learning Tampa Bay's systems and his new teammates' habits, so far, the results have been mixed.
The Bolts have a trio of wins over the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Dallas Stars with Coburn in the lineup skating just over 16 minutes a night and paired almost exclusively with Jason Garrison.
While, on the surface, things appear to be working out great -- the Lightning are unbeaten with Coburn dressed -- there have been struggles so far.
Coburn's game with the Lightning so far has been above average away from the puck. He's managing gaps well, defending the rush and playing sound defensively down low in the zone and around the net. Where he's run into trouble, however, is reading the Lightning's breakout and effectively distributing or carrying the puck to start a breakout or an offensive rush.
Of course, that skillset -- one that, say, Victor Hedman possesses -- isn't Coburn's strong suit and never has been in the NHL. But Tampa Bay plays a fast, aggressive transition game under Jon Cooper. Defensemen are expected to make quick decisions with the puck and hit moving targets as the team moves up ice and into the offensive third.
This has led to some uninspiring results in on-ice possession numbers for Coburn and his partner, Garrison, who has steadily been a plus possession player with the likes of Andrej Sustr, Radko Gudas, and Nikita Nesterov but has routinely been hemmed in when on-ice with Coburn.
Braydon Coburn has yet to achieve a Corsi For% north of 50% in three games with the Bolts, coming in at 46% vs. Buffalo, 40% vs. Toronto, and an appalling 26% in a 5-4 comeback win over Dallas.
Put simply, Coburn defends well, but he's doing it much too often since coming over to the Lightning, a team which generates its possession advantage by moving the puck quickly out of trouble and carrying it into the offensive zone for long, pressuring shifts on the opposition. So far, Coburn has failed to do much with the puck other than carry it to center ice and dump it in. If this continues, pucks will inevitably start going in behind Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy more often than they're going into the other net even with the skilled forward group playing in front of him.
The solution might be simple -- a healthy Matt Carle (and he seems close to returning) could provide the chemistry that just doesn't seem to be there so far with Garrison. A more drastic remedy would be to split the very efficient top pairing of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to spread the puck-moving wealth around a bit, but, as we've seen with the Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov line, head coach Jon Cooper is loathe to make changes to units that are working even if it means fixing others that aren't.
Fortunately, this could all sort itself out with more practice time and instruction from Tampa's coaching staff. Still, it's something to keep an eye on given the price paid to acquire Coburn and the fact that the Lightning likely have plans on running deep into the playoffs.