The Flyers have a dilemma. A good one, to be honest. They have three defensemen battling for two spots, and they’re all playing pretty decent at the moment.
This isn’t like the beginning of the 2017/18 season when Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg, and Samuel Morin were battling it out. This still involves Hagg, but enter Shayne Gostisbehere and Philippe Myers.
These three defensemen have been battling for a roster spot since the Flyers recalled Philippe Myers from Lehigh Valley at the beginning of November. It’s been a rotation, one that Alain Vigneault has endorsed as well.
We’ve seen a carousel before. The constant 4C rotation happened earlier this year, and worked to an extent. The fifth and sixth defenseman spots are apparently up for grabs, and it’s up to two of the three aforementioned defensemen to stake their claim.
Robert Hagg is probably the easiest to diagnose of the three blueliners. He’s just terrible, right?
Hagg has actually been playing some of his best hockey in the limited amount of time he has gotten in the lineup since Myers’ promotion. Hagg may have only played six games, but he’s got two helpers. He’s dishing out hits, he’s blocking shots, he’s doing what a defenseman is supposed to do.
Hagg isn’t the flashiest option, nor is he the best option. It’s not necessarily an indictment on him, it’s about how his two counterparts are better. He likely ends up the odd man out in this equation
Hagg is not this terrible defenseman his critics make him out to be, however. The heat map & line graph crowd will pinpoint stats that say he’s awful, but you could do that with anyone, right Micah?
Gostisbehere is as interesting a case as they come. You have a guy capable of 60+ point seasons, but a guy that hasn’t shown it in two years. His deficiencies on defense are glaring, and that needs to change. His offensive numbers just aren’t enough to cover up his defensive play any more, and his time may be running out to redeem himself.
Ghost’s name has been floating around in the trade winds, recently being linked, again, to Montreal.
Trading Ghost during the season doesn’t seem feasible. It flat out doesn’t make sense. After losing Sam Morin for the season, and having a lack of trustworthy depth in Lehigh Valley, Ghost as a potential seventh defenseman is a pretty decent scenario.
With five points in his last 14 games, he’s showing he can pitch in on offense, and hasn’t looked as much of a liability as he was earlier in the season. Alain Vigneault said it best per Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“His defensive play has been fine, he’s battled, he’s competed, I like his 1-on-1s. He’s got to play to his strengths, he’s aware of that and hopefully he does that for us.”
Ghost is likely to snag one of the open spots on the back end. His upside is too good, and in a game where speed is becoming more and more of a necessity, he’s got it over Hagg.
Phil Myers is the new guy in town, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t earning his keep. Myers slotted into the lineup and made an immediate impact. In his first six games, he posted four points (3g, 1a) and made his presence felt.
Myers is the most raw out of the trio of defensemen. At 22 years of age, he has some experience to gain. On the other hand, he’s pitching in and doing his fair share to keep the blue line afloat. His game against Toronto on December 3rd was his best of the season so far, and one of the best games a Flyers defenseman has had all year.
If Myers keeps up with his line of progression, he won’t sit another game. He has it all. The size, the speed, the snarl, he’s a total package. From taking on Brandon Gallagher in front of the net in November to netting three goals in three games when he initially came up. Myers is the real deal.
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