The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.
In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.
Today we will be looking at Shayne Gostisbehere.
There’s no denying Gostisbehere struggled for the majority of the 2019-20 season. From injuries to never fully getting his legs under him and all of the trade rumors surrounding him, it was a pretty underwhelming season.
While he may not be the strong offensively inclined defenseman we once thought he could be based off his stellar 2017-18 season, the Flyers have seen a whole lot worse than him on the blue line in recent years. So, while he’s fallen short of expectations, it doesn’t automatically mean he’s a bad player — but rather still figuring things out. He is the type of player that thrives when confident and there didn't seem to be much confidence this season.
He did appear to be one of the weaker links, but that’s also in part to the Flyers having solid defense overall, making him mostly stand out in a negative way. Again, it could have been far, far worse. I truly hope he puts this season behind him and finds the missing piece to his game once more. What a threat the Flyers could be (even more so) if Gostisbehere finds himself again.
C- for Ghost.
High expectations have been on Gostisbehere to have another season like he did in 2017-18, when he had 13 goals and 52 assists for 65 points with 33 points on the power play and a plus-10 rating. Clearly the potential is high, but unfortunately it wasn’t displayed during this 2019-20 regular season.
The consistency just wasn’t there for No. 53. The coaching staff expected more out of him at different points in the season — especially when keeping him out of the lineup as a healthy scratch for three games in November. He did get back in the lineup to have six points and a plus-3 mark in the next 18 games, but then came injury in early January, which made it more difficult for Gostisbehere to build up consistency.
Dealing with injury obviously didn’t make things easier, but hopefully this extended time off will be a good thing for Gostisbehere — who should be plenty healthy when the puck is dropped again.
He gets a B-.
Gostisbehere is an interesting case. I know everyone wants him to be the producer on the blue line that he was a couple years ago, and we haven’t exactly seen that. And, I truly think that since he’s gotten that bad knee operated on, cleaned out and doing better, we’ll see now see Gostisbehere back to his old form.
That being said, I really do commend him on how he’s handled this season during stretches when he’s struggled. He’s openly admitted that at times he’s mentally gotten in his own way. Overthinking things. When the coaching staff scratched him so he could mentally reset, he handled it like an absolute pro.
Mike Yeo told us a while back that his response is what you want to see in a guy. He’s a pro, he understood it, but he’s angry, he’s hungry and he wants to be the guy again. I believe now that the knee is getting back to where it needs to be, we could see that happen.
B for Gostisbehere.
This is a tough one; Ghost had a tough season. Gostisbehere would tell you himself that this was not a great season. He was in and out of the lineup and had stretches of injury. Ghost looked like a shell of the player we saw come up a few years ago who totally reinvigorated the Flyers' team, particularly on the power play.
I believe most of Ghost’s difficulties have to do with confidence. When Ghost is a confident player, it’s visible on the ice, perhaps more than any player I’ve ever seen. When Ghost makes the little fake at the blue line and stick handles deep into the offensive zone, that’s a confident Ghost. With the exception of a small stretch this season, we didn’t see that player much of the time.
Ghost has been the subject of trade rumors the past two seasons, so maybe the weight of that on his mind has affected his play. Either way, the Flyers need a confident Ghost going forward. Whether he’s in the lineup for the round robin and playoffs or for next season, there are big decisions involving his future that have to be made.
Overall, a C- for Gostisbehere.
Gostisbehere endured a trying and turbulent regular season.
Anyone would be frustrated if their own season transpired the way his did.
He entered 2019-20 facing pressure to rekindle his offensive prowess from 2017-18, when he put up a career-high 65 points, fourth most among NHL defensemen that season.
He was then a healthy scratch for three games during November, a stretch in which he was honest about fighting his confidence more than he had ever done before.
To compound everything, Gostisbehere dealt with a lingering left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery Jan. 14. Gostisbehere returned to action Feb. 6 but showed rust and head coach Alain Vigneault admitted the defenseman’s path back could have been better structured by the club.
Gostisbehere’s issues with his knee ended up prolonging. Because of the injury and some healthy scratches, Gostisbehere didn’t play in 24 of the Flyers’ final 26 games before the NHL stoppage.
The 27-year-old finished the regular season with 12 points in 42 games. Unfortunately for Gostisbehere, the season went completely awry and unplanned.
The 24-team return-to-play tournament and 2020-21 season could give him a refreshing chance to restart — and finally be healthy.
A C- for Gostisbehere’s difficult season.
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