RUMORS WERE flying this summer, whispers that the Flyers' longest-tenured player might be on the move. Braydon Coburn wasn't listening.
He had bigger things to worry about. His hometown was underwater.
Days before the NHL draft in New Jersey on June 28, Coburn spent the good majority of his time hauling garbage and helping friends, neighbors and family members clean up from the devastating floods in Calgary, Alberta, which displaced nearly 100,000 people.
Luckily, Coburn's own offseason home west of downtown Calgary was not impacted, but others weren't so lucky. Calgary's Saddledome, where the Flames play, was flooded up to the 10th row of seats in the lower bowl - including the locker room. Crews worked day and night to repair the building for last week's preseason opener.
"It was crazy," Coburn said. "Thank God we were all right. You never really expect to be in a situation where you're in the middle of a natural disaster. It was crazy to see how people reacted and pulled together. There was a lot of work to be done.
"You see it time and time again, whether it was in Calgary or with Hurricane Sandy, communities pull together. It was devastating to see, but it was inspirational at the same time."
For Coburn, the flood was a distraction from the swirling rumors. In fact, when he was reached by the Daily News on draft day - when talks seemed to heat up the most between the Flyers and Oilers, who were interested in him - Coburn didn't even know what time the draft started.
Coburn, 28, has a limited no-trade clause, but he said he understands the nature of the business. When he says the rumors don't keep him up at night, you tend to believe him. The rumors, he says, don't even fuel him.
"I'm always motivated," Coburn said. "It doesn't matter when or what it is. I'm just trying to get better every single year."
What does motivate Coburn is the prospect of another long summer. Coburn arrived in a trade with Atlanta in February 2007, and is the only current Flyer who was on that non-playoff team. Until last season, it was the last time this proud franchise missed the playoffs.
"It was just awful," Coburn said. "We came up short of expectations last year. It was just such a weird year with the lockout. The season seemed like it went by so quick. I can tell you that this group is just looking forward to this year."
Despite all the competition on defense, with nine players on one-way NHL deals and hulking veteran Hal Gill still with the team on a tryout, Coburn does not have to look over his shoulder.
For coach Peter Laviolette, Coburn is one of the "old reliables,'' along with his usual partner, Kimmo Timonen. One thing that Laviolette can always count on is Coburn's conditioning. He is almost always the Flyers' most physically fit player.
"There's no question he is in great shape," Laviolette said. "He looks good out there."
Not all of the Flyers' defense is set yet, but Laviolette was happy with what he saw from Timonen and Coburn in the second half of Tuesday's preseason tuneup against the Devils. New Jersey only netted eight shots on goal in the final 40 minutes, even though the Flyers lost, 2-1.
"After the first 10 minutes, they kind of got a little rhythm going," Laviolette said. "There weren't many quality chances. We've seen pieces of what we're looking at, and I think 'Coby' has looked good with Kimmo."
That doesn't mean the Flyers aren't looking for more consistency from Coburn, who missed the final 15 games of the season with a shoulder injury. Coburn, who had only missed eight games in his previous five full seasons, saw his offensive numbers slip in half from 2011-12.
Now healthy, with the rumors gone and his wife, Nadine, due to deliver the couple's second child any day now, Coburn is eagerly looking forward to the start of the season.
"It's a process," Coburn said. "We're building as a group. Training camp is about everyone trying to push each other. We're trying to get everyone on the same page. We're all trying to fine-tune things as much as we can."
Jake Voracek (upper-body injury) did not practice yesterday, but said through a Flyers spokesman that he is "status quo." Voracek is not scheduled to play tonight in New Jersey, but he could return tomorrow night in Washington . . . Wayne Simmonds (flu) was back on the ice for the second day in a row, despite losing 6 or 7 pounds while ill, and said he feels "healthy, strong and ready to go" . . . Jaromir Jagr (lower-body soreness) will not make his preseason debut for the Devils tonight, but coach Pete DeBoer plans to use as close to a regular-season lineup as possible.