Some of you may know me on Twitter as being an avid Shayne Gostisbehere fan. My current tag is Ghost Beer. I own a Shayne Gostisbehere jersey. He is one of my favorite players on the team. Or at least he was.
I have spent a lot of time defending the Flyers 2012 3rd Round pick, who finished 2nd in the Calder voting his rookie year (behind Artemi Panarin). When he was playing poorly last season after coming off the 65 point, I argued he was injured. I argued he started off slowly but he would surly turn it around. He never did. It was then that I heard rumors that Ghost and the Hakstol regime never got along. That he wanted to play a certain way that Hak couldn’t get behind. When the Flyers announced the additions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun over the offseason, along with the promising potential of Phil Myers seen last season, I was excited. I saw line combinations that would put the offensively minded Ghost paired with someone who could cover him when he inevitably makes a horrible pinch on the blue line. Alain Vigneault tried that through Braun, along with Hagg. When Ghost still hadn’t returned to the 65 point defensemen we saw two seasons ago, and was subsequently benched, I became curious. What exactly happened to Ghost, and why can he suddenly not play hockey?
When you look at the way this team has played without Ghost on the blue line, they’re 7-2-1 in their last 10 games that he’s been out with the injury. We saw the Flyers beat what is probably the best team in the West right now in the Avs, playing solid defense and putting up a strong team effort in front of Alex Lyon. For me, it begs the question of what kind of player Ghost is. We’ve heard how much of an emotional player he is and how much he gets into his head when he’s on the ice. We’ve heard him talk about facing mental challenges in his head and battling with himself when he’s playing. When he was scratched earlier this season, he came out and said in this interview that he doesn’t have confidence in himself as a player and that players like him don’t grow on trees. That alone is a contradictory statement. One second he’s saying he’s having a hard time believing in himself and having confidence on the ice, but he has the balls and the cockiness to say that he also doesn’t grow on trees and that players like him are rare in the NHL. I guess if you want to say that players who come into the NHL as a 3rd round pick, come in second place for The Calder, and then turn out to be complete dogshit for the following 2 years then yeah I mean that doesn’t typically happen. He had been brought up in the past as someone who really didn’t jive with Hakstol and with the former coaching staff. The NHL is really a closed door sport. We don’t often see players call each other out in the media for bad play. They typically try to figure it out together and work through the problems for the betterment of the team. Is it possible that having a guy like Ghost in the locker room is contributing to some of the negative things we see out of this team? Is it a possibility that Ghost was a reason that the team was having such a hard time winning on the road? I wouldn’t say it’s fair to pin it all on him, but with everything I have discussed it seems to me that it is reasonable to consider that as an option.
To say that his play this year has been lackluster would be a fair assessment. This season so far, Ghost has played 40 games, with 12 points (5 goals 7 assists). He spent 20 minutes in the box. He has been removed from PP1, where he was so dangerous in the past. Looking back on 2018-19, Ghost had 9 goals and 28 assists for 37 points in which he spent 22 minutes in the box. In less than half the games of last season, he’s spent around the same amount of time in the penalty box. Guys take penalties when they’re in their heads, when they’re overthinking their play, and when they’re frustrated. For me, this is a sign that Ghost is in his head too much and that he’s not controlling his emotions as well as he should be.
Ghost has also been mentioned pretty frequently as a potential trade piece prior to the deadline. TSN had him on their top 10 player trade watch nearing the deadline. The problem we run into here is that Ghost hasn’t really shown whether or not he can return to any similar form to how he played in the past. Would a team really be interested in a guy that hasn’t played well in 2 years, who is an extremely emotional player, and who is hard to coach; and if so what kind of return can you get for him? I think for the Flyers to get a decent return, a package deal will likely need to be made involving a prospect. The Flyers have several disposable prospects in LVH that a team in a rebuild may consider useful. On the other end of the coin, it is certainly possible that Ghost could go somewhere else and really benefit from the change in scenery. If the cost of a Ghost trade is watching him go somewhere else and return to form, but the Flyers ultimately play better hockey without him, my major concern would be why the hell he couldn’t do that here in Philly.
Ghost is expected to return from surgery to repair a nagging knee injury on Thursday. With everything I have brought up already, it begs the question of should they? Myers and Hagg have both been playing some of their best hockey in his absence. You’re not going to remove Provorov, Niskanen, Braun, or Sanheim from the line up. Do we want to send the message that good play and progression don’t mean anything? That if you go out and improve and get into a rhythm, then you will just get benched when the guy who’s been here longer is healthy? For me the answer is no. Realistically, there will most likely be a rotation amongst those bottom pair D-men in Myers Hagg and Ghost.
And thus, I have reached my Turning Point with Shayne Gostisbehere. I openly admit that I was wrong on him. It may in fact be time to move on from him, for the betterment of the team.