After breaking into the league and immediately becoming one of the most electrifying defensemen in the league in 2015/16, Shayne Gostisbehere had a lot to live up to in his sophomore season as a Philadelphia Flyer. Overtime winners, sprawling defensive saves, and one-time slap shots from the point reminiscent of Erik Karlsson or Shea Weber left many Flyers fans thinking that the following year would feature the next step, that the “Ghost” would reappear again and cement himself as one of the NHL’s premier offensive defensemen.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. And that’s okay.
Gostisbehere went into his 2nd season with sky-high expectations. Many pegged him as the Flyers next great blueliner, the cornerstone of an up-and-coming back end that would rival that of the 2009/10 team in terms of versatility and talent. The bar set for Ghost was incredibly high from the start, and with a team around him who struggled to score or defend with any efficiency, he struggled. But, even though his 2016 did not match up to his high-flying rookie year, he still was one of the Flyers better defenseman for a majority of the year. He had the most points of any Flyer defender with 39, had the 3rd most assists on the team at 32, and also stayed relatively healthy, featuring in 76 games. While he was sometimes exposed defensively, that is to be expected from young, primarily offensive defenseman, Not to mention the fact that for most shifts he was paired with one of Brandon Manning or Andrew MacDonald, both of whom may not even make the starting lineup for the 2017-18 season. Another factor in Ghost’s lesser production could also be his visibility on the ice. In his rookie year, teams neglected to gameplay around Gostisbehere for the majority of the season, leaving him open at the point, and when you have an elite playmaker such as Claude Giroux looking for you on the majority of power plays, chances are the opportunities will come. In 2016, teams were well aware of the threat posed by Gostisbehere from game 1, making it even harder than it already was for the 23 year old to find open looks.
Can He Bounce back?
This question has been posed by some and frankly, is ridiculous. Judging a young defenseman by one season on a bad team is ludicrous, and shows a lack of faith in Gostisbehere’s ability to adapt and change his game in order to be effective, which he has already done throughout the course of his short career. Gostisbehere has a plethora of raw physical skills as well as a hockey IQ that is flat out elite. All he needs to do now is put that together and go back to the simplified offensive game that was so successful for him in his rookie year. These small tweaks combined with a (hopefully) improved foward corps and a much-needed youth infusion on the back end, and it is clear that 2017/18 is a primed to be haunted by the Ghost.
Featured Image//Bruce Bennett, Getty Images