They use the term “healthy scratch” liberally in hockey. Translated loosely, it means if it ain’t broken, torn or disconnected, you are deemed healthy. Any announced injury and subsequent fix will likely happen after the season, when the process of putting all the pieces back together for the following season is first announced, and later begins.
Until then, it is all guesswork, as is the case with Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, among others. Friday, it was announced that Gostisbehere would be a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game at Carolina so that Samuel Morin could be inserted into the lineup in a full-time role.
``It will be somebody else on Tuesday and somebody else on Thursday,’’ interim coach Scott Gordon said. ``There’ll be some shuffling going around. … Nothing to do with performance. One hundred percent just trying to get Sam some games. Want him to play four of the [remaining] five.’’
Still, the move is the latest in a season of raised eyebrows when it comes to Ghost, one year removed from a 65-point, plus-10 season that signaled an emerging star. Instead, Ghost has been a talking point when the Flyers’ struggles this season are discussed, his horrific outing against Toronto on Wednesday the latest example.
Gostisbehere’s 36 points this season are not far off his campaign of two seasons ago, when he had 39. He finished a minus-21 then compared to a minus-17 now, and when it ended, he fessed up that he had played with a core muscle injury that was surgically repaired that summer.
During that season, he refuted any and all suggestions that an injury was affecting his play, arguing that everyone plays with some type of injury.
Here he was Friday, when asked if he felt completely healthy: ``I’m good. It comes with the attitude of the sport. We’re hockey players. We don’t show any weakness. But I think everyone has their bumps and bruises. It’s just your way of getting through it.’’
Said Gordon: ``I can’t speak of what is or isn’t affecting him off the ice. I’m sure he might be frustrated as far as production offensively. But he has that unique set of skills that offensive defensemen have. His quickness and deceptiveness are exceptional. For some reason, he didn’t pile up as many points as he’s capable of. but I don’t think he’s that far off.’’
He isn’t. And Gordon is right: It’s all about his quickness and deceptiveness. Ghost’s lateral movement has been his calling card, whether he was creating lanes from the point on the power play or shifting away from forecheckers while retrieving pucks. This season, the shots aren’t getting through with the frequency of his immediate past, and he’s not creating the time necessary to make crisp and calm emergences from his own zone.
``I don’t think he changed anything dramatically from Year 2 to 3," Gordon said. "Maybe there’s a combination of adjustments. Maybe he’s changed some things. Maybe he’s inside of his own head. Bad luck, hard luck, whatever you want to call it.’’
Gordon was asked if he had been given any clarity as to his status once the season ends.
``The only thing I know is that Dec. 17th, I was asked to come up and coach here, and what happens over the course of the rest of the season, we will discuss it afterwards,’’ said Gordon, a former Islanders head coach (2008-10) who was the Phantoms’ coach when the Flyers fired Dave Hakstol. ``Nothing’s changed.’’
Oh, yes it has. The number of interim coaches has increased, which means the number of landing spots for former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has, too. There will undoubtedly be more openings within the next month as coaches are let go.
Whether it’s here, there, or elsewhere, Gordon has advanced his case among available candidates not only because of the Flyers’ turnaround, but also because of how clearly he facilitated that with system changes and teaching skills.
Inserting Morin for games that are not quite yet meaningless is just the latest example of a guy who is coach first, candidate later.
``From Day 1,’’ Gordon said, ``I’ve coached it the same way whether I was going to be here or not be here.’’