Let’s all take a trip back to the way back year of 2015. The Flyers were on their way down as Hextall’s process took hold but there was one glimmer of light. Rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was called up to the Flyers and played his technically third NHL game on November 14 against the Carolina Hurricanes where he scored his first point, and registered his first goal the following game against the LA Kings. He went on to break multiple rookie defenseman scoring records and finished second in Calder voting.
Two seasons later in 2017-18, with a fresh new six-year, $27 million contract in tow, Ghost reached new heights. He recorded 65 points, smashing his previous high of 46, and made that contract look like it could turn into one of the best value contracts in the league. Then, something went wrong.
He seemingly played through injury for most of the 2018-19 season, and often clashed with coach Rick Wilson. It led to his lowest point totals to his career. In 2019-20, he missed 27 games with a knee injury before returning for the last game of the season before it was paused. He suited up for five of the Flyers’ 16 playoff games, but only recorded two assists during their last round robin game against the Lightning.
Now the question for Shayne Gostisbehere is where does he go from here?
Given he wasn’t traded away during the offseason, it seems like the Flyers are going to roll with Gostisbehere yet again, but his place on the roster is uncertain at best. The top three spots on the blue line are under lock with Ivan Provorov, Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim, but the remaining three spots will be shared between potentially seven players. Ghost, Erik Gustafsson, Justin Braun, Robert Hagg, Mark Friedman, Yegor Zamula, and Samuel Morin are all in the system and could reasonably play in the NHL if called upon.
Gustafsson might be Ghost’s biggest competition strictly from a system standpoint. He’s a reclamation project offensive defenseman who is looking to re-find his 60-point season from two years ago. Sound familiar? The Flyers will more than likely give their shiny new toy a go before returning to Gostisbehere for that role, unless Ghost blows them out of the water during training camp and whatever the preseason ends up looking like. It’ll be a race to see which former scorer finds his game first.
On the bright side, with an undefined defense corps, it may be just the opening Ghost needs to claim an everyday role on the back end. His play during the playoffs and last regular season game was positive enough that there is a glimmer of hope that Gostisbehere could re-find his previous form, an with an extended offseason to recover from whatever lingering knee issues he was facing, it’s not unreasonable to think Ghost could enter this season ready to compete for a role with the Flyers.
Shayne Gostisbehere is at a crossroads in his career. It’s time for the now 27-year-old to “shit or get off the pot”, as we’ll earnestly refer to it. There should be every opportunity to earn a full-time roster spot, but if he can’t grab that brass ring, there are an abundance of other players on the roster that will be quick to push him out of the picture.
Whatever happens, this will be Ghost’s last chance to return to his former glory in Philadelphia. The fact Chuck Fletcher kept Shayne Gostisbehere around must mean he’s willing to give the defenseman another shot, but if his play sputters out yet again, there may be no choice but to move on from the once-bright player and feed him the the Seattle Kraken, or find some other way to move on from his less-than-ideal contract. Let’s hope for the best, but expect the trajectory of Gostisbehere’s career to continue on its downward path until the Ghost Bear proves otherwise.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: cbslocal.com