Flyers’ Gustafsson Now Trending Over Gostisbehere


Recently, the Philadelphia Flyers have started Erik Gustafsson over Shayne Gostisbehere. Is Gustafsson trending over Gostisbehere?

No team, halfway through the regular season, should regress or stay stagnant. During the offseason, Chuck Fletcher had an opportunity to answer changes to his roster. Last season, Shayne Gostisbehere remained a topic of trade discussion. How could the Philadelphia Flyers offload his contract? Would he be a target in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft?

Fletcher signed Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3mil contract. In the big picture, both players present the same skillset. Two offensive-minded defensemen don’t combine forces to make up for Matt Niskanen. Gostisbehere went from potential trade bait to partnered alongside Ivan Provorov on the top-pair. Effectively, the Flyers tied up an extra $3mil on the kind of defenseman they weren’t sold on a season ago.

Lately, Gostisbehere has been a healthy scratch. The last game Gostisbehere played was the overtime victory against the New York Rangers. He finished with a -3 rating, worse than Gustafsson during the 0-9 loss to the Rangers two nights later.

Alain Vigneault has kept the same defensive lineup (except for Robert Hagg; on IR) since losing by nine to the Rangers. Filling in for Hagg is Nate Prosser; not Gostisbehere.

What happened to Gostisbehere? Let’s have that conversation.

Why Gustafsson For The Flyers?

In equal sample sizes, Gustafsson is having a better season. More importantly, he is performing better than Gostisbehere lately. When you’re Vigneault, making decisions for the lineup, you consider which players are executing now. Fans in Philadelphia are rooting for Gostisbehere to make a career renaissance, but that’s cooled lately. Gustafsson has been the better option on the third pair.

“Shayne has had a few games. Defensively, he hadn’t been as solid by the stats we keep as well as the ones that are out there.”

Alain Vigneault; 3/20/2021
Player/2020-2021 StatsCF%FF%+/-PHitsThru%GPContract Left
Shayne Gostisbehere48.2%48.2%-38853.6%203yrs, $4.5mil
Erik Gustafsson50.8%48.5%3101332.8%201yr, $3mil

Consistency has been the issue with the Flyers defense. Finding success on the powerplay as a blue-liner doesn’t help the team during even-strength scenarios. Gustafsson hasn’t been brilliant overall on defense, but he’s been more effective when on the ice in comparison. Vigneault allowed his lineup to redeem itself on Thursday, but now he’s allowing for consistency.

“Ghost, he’s got to be more dependable. We understand and see the qualities that he has as far as puck-moving ability and that good shot that he has.”

Alain Vigneault; 3/20/2021

Throughout this season, Gostisbehere has excelled with his shooting. He has scored more goals than Gustafsson. Adversely, when Gostisbehere is on the ice, Philadelphia allows more goals.

Right now, the buzzword is “trend.” What is “trending” in the right direction?

Gustafsson may be the hot hand on the third pair in place of Gostisbehere, but Fletcher needs to make a move before the trade deadline to bail the Flyers out of a defensive hardship.