Shayne Gostisbehere said all the right things as he waited to return to the Philadelphia Flyers’ lineup, following three games as a healthy scratch. He didn’t sulk or point fingers or blame off-season surgery for his sophomore struggles.
The NHL wasn’t ready for Gostisbehere when he became a regular player last season. He finished the year as a Calder Trophy finalist and was the only rookie defenseman to reach double digits (17) in goals, which included eight on the power play.
His sophomore season hasn’t been as memorable; and his recent status as a healthy scratch, coupled with some time in the press box a few months back, has Flyers fans wondering why Dave Hakstol isn’t letting Gostisbehere play through his mistakes and do his learning on the ice.
Gostisbehere called being a healthy scratch (again) “motivating,” three months after he said of his previous time in the press box, “I’m going to get up there in that box and take everything in and make this into a positive.”
Gostisbehere’s game is one that will lead to turnovers and as a young player he’ll have lapses; but his style of play also leads to scoring chances and positive possession numbers, which are improved from last season, per Corsica Hockey. His Corsi is at 53.8 percent right now, up from 50 percent in 2015-16. He’s on the ice for more goals against, but the goals just aren’t going in for GhostBear in Year 2 as he currently has four on 114 shots. Speaking of that, his shooting percentage has also dropped from 11.2 percent to 3.5 percent while getting just about the same ice time per game.
With a full off-season and more video to breakdown of his game, it’s clear that opponents are discovering Gostisbehere’s weaknesses after being victim of his strengths last season. And as we see time and time again, defensemen take time to develop in the NHL. GhostBear left Union College after an NCAA title and was a Flyers regular at age 22. It’s a big jump to this level as many have discovered, and the sophomore slump is something we see from many young players.
This is where practice time would help, but with the NHL’s compressed schedule and teams having five-day bye weeks this year, getting extended time to work on things on the ice is tough to find. As he waited for Hakstol to re-insert him into the lineup (he’s back Thursday night) Gostisbehere said he wasn’t just watching video of himself, he also watched tape of left-handed defenseman who play on the right side, which was impactful because he was envisioning himself in those situations and figuring out what he would do.
“It’s been tough, but I think I really just had a good attitude about it,” he said Wednesday via the Flyers website. “If you’ve got a sour attitude about it it’s not going to help anyone, it’s not going to help anything and it’s not going to help myself. I think if I just have the best attitude and used it as workdays; I got better in the gym, I got better extra ice. I just worked on some things. That’s something you don’t really get to do during the year; fortunately, I did. You’ve just got to apply it now.”
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