Shayne Gostisbehere, without a doubt, had a letdown season in his sophomore campaign, but did that warrant him being a healthy scratch numerous times during the season including a stretch of three games in February? Absolutely not.
Coach Dave Hakstol took a lot of heat from the Philly fan base last season and it’s easy to see why when you look at his handling of Gostisbehere. After an electrifying 46-point in 64-games season in 2015-16, the Florida native got off to a slow start this year.
As a young, offensive defenseman he made mistakes, but nothing more glaring than the ones Michael Del Zotto, Andrew MacDonald or Brandon Manning made. Yet, Gostisbehere was the one sitting in the press box more often. It was a clear age bias toward the more veteran players.
In defense of Hakstol, I do believe one night of watching the game from overhead with just a focus on learning, could have helped Gostisbehere. But when it became three straight games, Hakstol crossed the line.
Like Claude Giroux, Gostisbehere had offseason abdominal surgery and it seemed to have a huge effect on his game. His best hockey last season came at the end of the year, most likely when his body was fully healed.
But Gostisbehere also said it wasn’t the surgery bothering him. The defenseman said it was more of a confidence issue, but he was going to play his game and “not care” if he got “yelled at.”
It seemed to be an indirect dig at Hakstol and the coaching staff for keeping him reigned in last season.
Gostisbehere is a lock, but with Hakstol coaching, he could be battling for more minutes throughout the season. Unless Ivan Provorov takes a big step forward in his offensive game, Gostisbehere will still be manning the first power play unit.
If there’s one thing that I believe about the Flyers heading into next season, it’s that Gostisbehere is going to rebound. Last season was a fluke. Thirty-nine points is way too low for the offensive defenseman.
At the end of last year, Gostisbehere looked identical to his form in 2015-16. That will continue into next season and result in about a 55-point year for the blueliner. Whether that results in more confidence from Hakstol is beyond me.
With or without it, Hakstol should be forced to play Gostisbehere more with a number young defensemen joining the team. Despite only being in his third year, the 5-foot-11 rearguard will be a veteran.
It will be a huge season for Gostisbehere as he continues to lead the Philly blueline.