Has “If” Turned into “When” For Gostisbehere and the Flyers?
In what was a largely positive and uplifting season which saw the Flyers team win a playoff round and a Flyers’ player beat cancer, there were also storylines that were not as welcomed. Unfortunately for Shayne Gostisbehere, one centered around him and he would probably like to put the 2020 season behind him.
The gifted Gostisbehere was supposed to have a strong year according to the advanced metric crowd. Gone were Corsi headwinds like Andrew MacDonald and Radko Gudas. The evil Dave Hakstol had been sacked and was replaced by new coach Alain Vigneault, who was sure to send that bothersome Robert Hagg to the press box once and for all. All this to let Gostisbehere reach his final form. Not so much, what a kick in the Corsi.
Gostisbehere started the season looking relatively strong on defense. Matt Niskanen was still trying to find his footing with Ivan Provorov, Phil Myers was adjusting to a higher level of play in the NHL. Gostisbehere stood out as a mostly competent player as compared to those struggling to adjust. On November 15th, he led the Flyers in ice time with 23 minutes. He also had a Corsi percentage of 78.8, leading the team. It was a game the team lost to the hapless Ottawa Senators, going 0-5 on the power play. This was the turning point in Gostisbehere’s season.
Gostisbehere’s minutes started diminished. Within a week he was a healthy scratch. He was taken off the top powerplay unit. It is hard to overestimate the negative statement of these actions. He is among the top powerplay quarterbacks in the league. Something was not working. Whatever it was continued to the end of the season.
The playoffs were no better as Gostisbehere was dressed for only five of the team’s games. He dressed only once against the Islanders (a loss) while totaling only 10 shots in his appearances. This is hardly a vote of confidence from the coaching staff.
When discussing Gostisbehere, there are two monsters in the room. The first is the strengths and shortcomings he has as a player. The second reaches beyond him, where he is a victim of circumstances through no fault of his own.