The Atlanta Thrashers said during the lockout season that if it had been played, 2003 first round pick Braydon Coburn would have been with the club. He spent that year in Portland, in his final year in juniors, and ended it with the Chicago Wolves. The transition from junior to the AHL was almost seamless.
This fall, Coburn came to Thrashers training camp in great shape, and was expected to stick, but after nine games it was clear that this transition wasn’t going to be seamless. He wasn’t yet ready.
Coburn recognized that his play in Atlanta wasn’t up to snuff.
“I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped to,” he said last night following a 3-1 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals. “I was kind of (pause)…a little bit tentative at times I think up there. I didn’t totally feel comfortable, but I think the games I got a little bit more ice time I felt a little bit more comfortable and got into my game better. I didn’t play a lot, which I’ve got to learn to do early on here and grow into my game.”
Assigned to the farm club on Oct. 26, the Thrashers want him to keep working on his game, get lots of ice time, and confidence. Though he recognized his problems, it still was painful when the gauntlet fell.
“I was disappointed,” he said. “My goal coming into camp was to be in Atlanta all year. I was there for camp and the first part of the season and I thought I was getting closer. But I’ll do the best with what I’ve been given right now.”
What he doesn’t say, but is evident in his manner both on and off the ice, is that he is frustrated. Living in a hotel for five weeks is never easy, and it doesn’t get easier when things aren’t going well on the ice. The Wolves struggled out of the gate, and are currently 6-9-1-2.
“I think right now we’re just lacking in some departments,” Coburn explained. “We’re having one good period and then we’re letting ourselves off the hook and not following it up with another. So I think consistency is one thing that we really have to work on, and just playing together more as a team. We’re playing a lot like individuals right now, and we’ve got to figure that out.”
His frustration on the ice was evident on Friday as he was sent off in the last minute of play with a five-minute high sticking major on Nashville’s Kevin Klein. He bowled him over at center ice, a payback for Klein rocking him along the boards in the second period.
Coburn has been contributing offensively in Chicago, with five points in 11 games, seeing time on both special teams. He has been partnered with Mark Popovic, a summer acquisition by the Thrashers.
“It’s been good,” Coburn said of the pairing. “Pops is a good D partner. I think we compliment each other pretty well. It’s good because we can both play the right side even though we’re both left-handed and we kind of intertwine that way. We have pretty good chemistry.”
Popovic, though arguably in competition with Coburn coming up, is solidly in his corner.
“It’s great. You’d never know he’s a rookie,” he said. “He’s a real responsible young guy, very professional on and off the ice. He can fly, he’s unbelievably fast. His game is coming together, I don’t know if it’s going to be this year or next year, but he’s going to be an unbelievable NHL defenseman.”
Popovic, 23, is in his fourth year as a pro, so he has a few words of advice to give.
“I definitely try to help him out. We work really well together, communicate. We have a good relationship off the ice, we’re roommates on the road. It’s been fun playing with him.”
While playing adequately in the AHL, Coburn still has some awareness improvements to make that come with experience. One thing that he’s doing to help is keeping up with the Thrashers on television.
“We try to watch their games. Watch what’s going on and try to use it a little bit as a learning tool,” he said. “It’s always good to learn that way by watching.”
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