Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere: A Flyers Feud or A Matter of Fit?

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The Flyers Fan Base Has Pitted Gostisbehere Against Hagg. Can They Coexist?

Cats and dogs, Hatfields versus McCoys, Tom, and Jerry, “wit” or “witout”.  These are some of the great feuds of our time, and it may be time to add another, Robert Hagg Vs. Shayne Gostisbehere.  It seems silly, especially since both play for the Flyers, but people have taken sides and apologies won’t fix it.

To fully understand how we got here we should look back at the beginning. It was November 14, 2015, the Flyers have a record of 6-8-3 and are struggling under rookie head coach Dave Haskstol. On this night the Flyers beat the Hurricanes and Gostisbehere, dressing for the first time that season, cemented his place on the roster. The Flyers team had star power on offense lead by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds. But the group forwards were not nearly as deep as today’s team with the likes of Ryan White, Chris VanVelde, R.J. Umberger, and a diminished Matt Read.

Worse still was the Flyers’ defense corps, which had suffered greatly under salary cap constraints. Michael Del Zotto led the defensemen in minutes up to that point in the season, Luke Schenn was still with the team and thought of as a viable option. The fan base was realizing the sad reality of Andrew MacDonald, who had just finished the first year of what was a pricey half a decade contract.

Things were not looking up, but enter the smooth-skating kid with the funny name and slick moves to change all of that. Ghost, as he came to be called, had 17 goals and made the Flyers powerplay very scary. In conjunction with the strength of a great Steve Mason season, Gostisbehere’s play brought the Flyers into the playoffs in a season where the expectation was to do little more than free up cap space. He was exciting and effective. That great rookie season forged a bond with the Flyers fan base. He was that most unexpected and spectacular present that you would always love and never forget.

Robert Hagg’s journey to a roster spot was much less spectacular and much more deliberate than his rival’s.  He was drafted in 2013 in the second round. While Ghost was an enigma, free to play as he had always played, Hagg was forged into the player he is today. Unlike Gostisbehere who only spent 21 games in the minors, Hagg spent years. Hagg played over 190 games in the AHL, first being broken down and then rebuilt. Hagg was drafted as a two-way defenseman who could see powerplay minutes. In the AHL he was coached and built into a shot-blocking and hitting machine that makes the simple play.

Things came to a head at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season. The ascension of Provorov, the development of Myers and Sanheim had solidified the defense and claimed three spots on the ice.  The addition of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun committed five of the six defensive spots, leaving Gostisbehere and Hagg to compete for the last opening. This the beginning of the animosity.

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