Flyers sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere captured the hearts of hockey fans in Philadelphia and across the world during the 2015-16 campaign with his booming shot, timely scoring ability and a great nickname, and ‘Ghost Bear’ was recognized Thursday as Philadelphia’s top pro athlete of 2016.
"I didn’t think I was going to come in and make the impact I did," Gostisbehere said of his 17-goal, 46-point rookie campaign, according to CSN Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio. "But I came in wanting to contribute to the team and help the team along the way. That’s what stuck with me all the way: Just put the individual stuff to the side and keep your teammates always with you."
So, how will the 23-year-old be celebrating the honor? By watching from the sidelines as the Flyers take on the Winnipeg Jets.
That’s right: on the same day Gostisbehere was named the best pro athlete the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ had to offer in 2016, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has decided that Gostisbehere needs to take a seat.
“It’s not a small thing to have Shayne out of our lineup,” Hakstol said, according to CSN Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall. “Yet I think it’s a good thing for him, in his growth, in his development and in a few things that we’re asking him to concentrate on.”
It’s a somewhat surprising move by Hakstol, though the signs may have been there that a benching was coming from the Flyers’ coach. Philadelphia has lost four of its past five games and, during that stretch, Gostisbehere’s ice time has been all over the place. In fact, his ice time has bounced around for much of the season.
Though he’s averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time per game, Gostisbehere has skated less than 20 minutes in five of 17 games this season, including three outings where Hakstol has sent out the past season’s Calder Trophy runner-up for less than 17 minutes. The most recent instance of a dip in Gostisbehere’s ice time came this past Saturday against the Minnesota Wild when Gostisbehere skated a mere 16:06 in the 3-2 victory.
Still, Gostisbehere has been able to keep up his production. Through 17 games, Gostisbehere has three goals and 10 points, which puts him into a tie with Mark Streit for tops among defensemen. Even if his offensive-minded play has led to a few mistakes, Hakstol said that comes with the territory.
“There are going to be mistakes there that are out of aggressiveness and out of an effort to make some plays,” Hakstol said, according to Hall. “Those mistakes are going to be there. Those aren’t the things that we’re addressing in his game at this point in time.”
But if that’s something that isn’t being addressed, what’s the reason behind the healthy scratch? Hakstol wouldn’t get into specifics, saying that it was “really important those stay between us as a staff and our player,” according to Hall, but it’s not too difficult to see where the issues might lie.
Gostisbehere has seen more than 260 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5, but only 18.9 percent of his shifts have started in the defensive zone, according to Stats.Hockeyanalysis. Gostisbehere is also carrying an ugly 45.8 on-ice goals for percentage at 5-on-5, while the Flyers boast the league’s highest goals against total at 60 in 17 games. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs are within one-tenth of as many goals against per game.
Regardless of the scratch or what the Flyers want Gostisbehere to work on, he shouldn’t be out of the lineup too long, though. Hakstol said he didn’t envision the sophomore rearguard sitting out for a long time, so he could be back as soon as Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. And if he’s paying a bit more attention to his side of the ice, it’ll be easy to understand why.
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