BY BRANDON MURPHY
A third-round pick in 2012, Shayne Gostisbehere gave Flyers fans a glimpse of their bright future when he made his debut last season. After being nominated for the Calder trophy, the man they call “The Ghost” lacked offensive production in his second season. Was this a case of a sophomore slump or was a setback expected after such a phenomenal rookie campaign?
I remember watching Shayne Gostisbehere during the 2014 Frozen Four Championship game and thinking “This guy is going to be on Philly’s roster very shortly.” In a game that Union College won 7-4 at the Wells Fargo Center, Gostisbehere collected one goal and two assists and was +7 (he was on the ice for every goal his team scored). He also won Tournament MVP and was the most dominant player at both ends of the rink. Three days later, the Flyers inked him to an entry-level contract.
Since then, Gostisbehere has battled through a torn ACL, was a Calder finalist and is a key piece to the Flyers future.
Known for his offensive prowess, Gostisbehere is arguably the best puck-moving defenseman the Flyers have. His explosive stride allows him to exit the zone with great speed and open up a passing lane or simply carry the puck in. Here is a graph demonstrating how effective Gostisbehere was at exiting his own zone in the playoffs last year. It is a small sample size, but he does this consistently.
Last year, Gostisbehere scored 17 goals and had 46 points in only 64 games. Many, including myself, thought he would explode for at least 50 points this year. It wasn’t the case. Ghost scored only 4 goals through the first half of the season and played limited time at even-strength under coach Hakstol, who would opt to have Andrew MacDonald and Ivan Provorov play the bulk of the minutes. Gostisbehere averaged less time on ice per game at 5-on-5 and less total time on ice per game than he did in his rookie season.
Despite having great possession statistics (53.7 CF% and 53.4 FF%) due in large part to his offensive zone starts (68.8%), Gostisbehere didn’t produce the results Flyers fans wanted. There are reasons for this.
- His PDO was low
PDO is a statistic used to track a players’ “luck factor” by combining his teams’ shooting and save percentage when said player is on the ice. The norm is 100. Gostisbehere’s number was at 96.4 (6.4 shooting % + 90 save %), which means the team could not score goals and the goalies could not make a save when Gostisbehere was on the ice. In his rookie year, his PDO was 102.4.
2. Missed opportunities
Jim Jackson must have said “high and wide” at least 1,000 times this season. While Gostisbehere did have 198 shots on goal, he only scored seven goals, resulting in a 3.5% shooting percentage that is due to missed shots at crucial moments. Ghost also had 1,127 shot attempts, meaning 17.5% of his shots hit the net, which is not bad by any means. In his rookie year, his shooting percentage was an unsustainable 11.2%.
3. The power play needs a change
In past years, the Flyers power play was one of their biggest strengths and in a way, it still is. They ranked 14th this season at 19.5%, scoring 54 goals on the man advantage. However, the Flyers also allowed 9 shorthanded goals against, third worst in the NHL. One of the main reasons is because every team knows that Giroux and Gostisbehere are the key elements that make the power play successful. While that system has worked for a long time (even with Pronger, Timonen and Streit at the point), it is slowly becoming stale, as teams are now a lot more aggressive on the penalty kill and are finding ways to shut down Gostisbehere and Giroux. He only scored two goals on the power play this season.
However, this was just an off year for Gostisbehere, there is no way his shooting percentage remains at 3.5% and with the Flyers talent developing, he will be surrounded by much more skill and his point totals will increase. The fact that he was so exceptional in his first year set high expectations for the 24-year-old.
The Flyers must decide on his future, as Gostisbehere is a restricted free agent. Does Ron Hextall want to sign him to a long-term deal? Or does he want to sign him to a bridge deal? One thing is certain, the Flyers are not going to let him go.