The Flyers made a surprising decision yesterday in waiving Shayne Gostisbehere. Now that the dust has settled and Ghost has somehow cleared waivers, we’re left with a slightly confusing picture on the surface…until you dig a little deeper.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Flyers fan who agreed with the waiving of Gostisbehere, who was not only one of the lone bright spots in a dreary month that saw every ounce of life sucked out of the team, but he was also one of the very few to be outspoken and accountable after performances that simply demanded it.
The Flyers may finally be taking very small steps forward. They’re still conceding way more goals than optimal and the defense is still as sloppy as ever, but there is a sense of resilience in the team once more, as evidenced by their last two victories in which Vigneault’s men found a way to come from behind on both occasions. But that doesn’t mean that their current level of play is acceptable and there’s very little AV could do at this point.
In fact, in the most recent 4-3 win over Buffalo, Jordan Hall noted that the Head Coach didn’t even bother going into the team’s dressing room at the end of the second period. He instead left them to ‘figure it out’. This was a bold move, but evidently, one that paid off..and it’s not the first time he’s resorted to such measures this season.
If we go back to the end of January, AV decided to bench Travis Konecny in a bid to find more 5-on-5 production. This was confusing at the time given the fact that the big concern around the team at that time was shooting and creating scoring chances. Konecny accounted for 13 of the teams’ 207 shots at that point, averaging 1.4 per game, with his 38.5% shooting percentage leading the team by a long way.
Konecny wasn’t playing necessarily badly in comparison to the rest of the team, but removing him from the equation sent an instant jolt of energy through the team. Over the past two months, the shooting percentage has improved fairly substantially, with their shot differential now ranking 25th as opposed to dead last. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, the concerns have flipped to the other half of the ice.
With more holes than Augusta Golf Course, the Flyers defense has been ailing. Gostisbehere was always going to have a target on his back due to his $4.5M cap-hit, but he’s been producing efficiently on the offensive end, registering a trio of assists in his past five games. The problem is that when he’s not on a power-play or creating chances offensively, he can be a bit of a nightmare. Defensive deficiencies only grow more detrimental when he isn’t making up for it at the other end of the Ice.
But in comparison to Erik Gustafsson, it’s not like Shayne Gostisbehere has been playing significantly worse. It might be comparing a rock and a hard place, but Ghost was at least adding something to the team as opposed to struggling both offensively and defensively like most other blue-liners. So why was he waived?
You could argue that the $1M saved in cap space is significant…if the team didn’t have to recall another defenseman who costs around $700k. You could make the case that it’s setting up for a big-time trade, if the Flyers had shown any kind of consistent pursuit of guys like Matias Ekholm. But they haven’t.
If Ghost did have significant trade value, he would’ve been dealt by now. This past offseason, the past few months, even the past week as the deadline approaches. Teams, including Florida, had a free shot at snagging the 30-year-old from waivers. They didn’t.
This move might simply be another measure taken by AV or the front office to try and inject some accountability into the lineup. To show that ‘if the team are willing to waive Shayne Gostisbehere, then they’ll be more than happy to do the same to me’. Konecny’s benching didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, but the aftermath made things inherently clear. It might not seem like it now, but if we see a more rigid and willing defense in the weeks that follow this shocking decision, regardless of if there is a trade or not, then that may tell us all we need to know.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre