Why the Flyers converted the wrong defensemen to wingers

Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Mark Friedman is now a Penguin and Sam Morin is an AHL forward at best. The Flyers put a lot of recourses into making Morin work at wing, only to see the experiment seemingly fail. Then with all the COVID problems, AV tried to put Friedman at wing, only for him to put on waivers.

So why did they try converting 2 defensive prospects into wingers when they had the perfect player to convert from defense to wing?

As many Flyers fans know, Shayne Gostisbehere has been extremely inconsistent during his time in Philadelphia. In some games he looks like he could be one of the best defensemen in the NHL, other games he looks like he should be playing in the KHL.

Obviously, last season was the peak of Gostisbehere’s struggles here in Philadelphia. He only played in 42 games and tallied 12 points, the lowest of his career in either category. Losing Provovov as his partner with Matt Niskanen coming in didn’t help him either.

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This season Gostisbehere missed a lot of time with COVID-19 and has been moving around a lot in the line-up. Gostisbehere needs to have a solidified position on this roster, and that position should’ve been a winger.

Gostisbehere’s strongest skill is his offensive ability. When he plays well offensively that’s when he has his best games. When he doesn’t play well offensively, his defensive weaknesses get exploited. A simple way to fix that problem is putting him in a place where offensive chances are higher and his defensive weaknesses are limited. His skating ability is some of the best in the NHL as well, as he is known around the league to be one of the fastest skaters. The use of his speed and offensive skills make it easy to think about putting Gostisbehere on the wing.

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We have seen this work in previous cases as well, with one of the most known success stories as former Blackhawks and Thrashers/Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien went through a similar change in the 2010 Playoffs and, as Flyers fans know, it paid off. Byfuglien was tied for the team league in goals for the playoffs with 11 en route to a Stanley Cup.

The only problem with the situation is the Flyers’ lack of real defensive players to replace Gostisbehere if he was to convert to the winger. With Mark Friedman just nabbed on waivers by Ron Hextall and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defensive group that was already thin just got thinner.

The defensemen they have now are Provorov, Myers, Sanheim, Gustafsson, Braun, Hägg, and Gostisbehere. Moving Gostisbehere would make it so someone like Nate Prosser would be the team’s 7th defenseman.

Yes, Gostisbehere moving to wing could ultimately help the team’s offensive production, as his skill set could definitely help the Flyers and their offensive struggles. However, until they get enough reliable defensemen to be able to fill in for the hole, Gostisbehere needs to stay at defense for the time being.