Photo credit: Dinur Blum
SAN JOSE- As anyone who has watched a dozen Sharks games this season knows, Minnesota native Justin Braun is having an incredible year on the blue-line. The 26-year-old defenseman goes up against the opponents best forwards night after night and yet has still managed to turn in a plus-17 rating through the first half of the season.
Now of course plus/minus has it’s problems as a statistic, but there is no one stat that tells the whole story.
However, when you combine Braun’s +17 (currently +18), with the fact he faces the best forwards the opposing team has to offer and is still amongst the league leaders in terms of corsi statistics, you have one hell of a player.
For those unfamiliar with the basic premise of corsi, the idea is rather simple. You add up all the shots taken for a players team while he is on the ice and subtract the total of shots taken by the other team.
For example, if the Sharks attempt 20 shots during a game while Braun is on the ice and their opponents only attempt 10, Braun’s corsi for the game would be 10.
Unfortunately, there are too many different variations of these advanced statistics. Even yours truly has some difficulty keeping track. Therefore, don’t worry about the raw numbers of these new era stats.
The point to be had about corsi is that no matter how you measure it, Justin Braun ranks amongst the league leaders.
For reference purposes, names of other defenseman near Braun in the various corsi ratings are names like Dan Boyle, Kevin Shattenkirk and Zdeno Chara.
Cam Fowler on the other hand, who did make the Team USA squad, sees his corsi numbers in the mix with names like Brenden Dillon, Peter Harrold, Marc Methot, and Matt Carkner.
And it’s not as if Fowler plays for a bad team, he plays for the Pacific division leading Ducks.
Again, no statistic is perfect. This is why scouts have their jobs and the decisions for these Olympic teams are always so tough.
But this season, Braun has developed into one of the best two-way defenseman in the league. He is tremendous on the breakout, loves to jump into the play late and even lead rushes up the ice. Defensively, he has been playing as good as anybody in shutting down top tier forwards night in and night out.
There are very few defenseman in the league right now that are tougher to play against than Braun. He battles for every inch of space and even at just 6’2″ 205, he rarely, if ever gets out-muscled. Combine his ability to more than hold his own in the corners against bigger forwards, with his tremendous skating and puck moving abilities, he ought to have been a slam dunk for Team USA.
He may only have 11 points on the season in 40 games, but 10 have come five-on-five. If it weren’t for Dan Boyle ahead of him on the power-play depth chart, Braun could very easily be a 15-20 point defenseman at this stage of the season.
There is not one significant weakness in Braun’s game right now, he’s simply been doing everything you could possibly want in a defenseman this season. And you would be hard pressed to find anyone saying the same thing about a handful of the American defenseman that were named to the roster ahead of him.
Fowler, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Justin Faulk all of whom have been selected to represent Team USA all have some drawbacks in their overall games.
There is simply no argument to be had for not taking Justin Braun on Team USA. If you watch the film of No. 61 for the Sharks, there isn’t a single area of the game that he doesn’t excel at.
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