Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Flyers' Ghost benched on day he is named Philly's Pro Athlete of Year

Shayne Gostisbehere, the speedy Flyers defenseman who finished second in the NHL's rookie-of-the-year voting last season, was named the Philadelphia Pro Athlete of the Year by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association on Thursday morning.

A short time later, he received stunning news: He would be a healthy scratch for Thursday night's game against visiting Winnipeg.

Coach Dave Hakstol said watching from the press box for at least a game would help Gostisbehere's development.

"I was a little taken aback by it, but I think right now it's what's best for the team, I guess," Gostisbehere said after Thursday's morning skate. "I can learn a lot from up there. When I was injured the whole year (two seasons ago), that's where I sat and I learned a lot and it helped me in my rookie year. It's a good learning curve right now. It hits home, for sure, and makes me work that much harder."

Gostisbehere has seen increased defensive attention in the early part of this season. He has 10 points in 17 games, is tied for fourth among NHL defensemen with 48 shots, and is coming off a game in which he was plus-2 -- and excelled in the overtime -- in a 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

For the season, he has struggled defensively and is minus-4.

He will be replaced by Andrew MacDonald on Thursday.

Hakstol said "all the elements are there" in Gostisbehere's game. "It gets a little tougher the second time around. ... There's not one element that is missing."

The second-year coach added that the benching was "part of growth and development and accountability in our play overall. It's not a small thing to have Shayne out of our lineup, yet I think it's a good thing for him in his growth and development on a few things we're asking him to concentrate on."

Hakstol said there was "no wakeup call needed" and that it was "an opportunity to watch the game from above, which can help a young player."

He also said it's "tougher" in a player's second season "because of the amount of video that is around." He added that "Ghost will be fine. He's got all the abilities and, more importantly, he's got the mentality to deal with those things."

Gostisbehere downplayed how he is being defended.

"I don't think it has much to do with the opponent," he said. "I'm not going to put it all on them. I'm a no-excuse guy. I think it's more on my end.  I mean, I have to clean some things up, obviously. I got taken out of the lineup for that reason and there are a lot of things I can work on, and that's what I'm going to do."

The player they call "Ghost" will be among the many honorees at the 113th annual banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill on Feb. 3.

"Just to be associated with the award is something special to me and my family as well," Gostisbehere said earlier in the week. "It's a tremendous honor."

After being recalled from the AHL a year ago, Gostisbehere scored 17 goals -- a record for a Flyers rookie defenseman -- and jump-started the team's drive to a playoff berth.

Before the benching, Gostisbehere, who missed most of the previous season with the AHL's Phantoms after undergoing knee surgery, said: "I didn't think I was going to come in and make the impact I did last year. But I came in wanting to contribute to the team and help the team along the way. That's what stuck with me all the way: Just put the individual stuff to the side and keep your teammates always with you."

With Gostisbehere in the lineup last season, the Flyers went 34-19-11; they were 7-8-3 without him.

It's supposed to be more difficult for a defenseman to make an immediate impact, but Gostisbehere made it look easy, finishing fifth in rookie scoring with 46 points. One of his highlights was setting an NHL rookie record for defensemen with a 15-game points streak.

But Hakstol wants more from Gostisbehere on the defensive end, which is why he is benching him Thursday.

Breakaways. For tickets to the Philadelphia Sports Writers banquet, go to ... The players on the Flyers' top line -- Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds -- have combined for 41 points but are minus-22.....The Flyers have lost four of their last five games. ... Winnipeg is on a 4-0-1 run....Steve Mason (3.24 GAA, .884 save percentage) will face Connor Hellebuyck (2.45, .916)....The Flyers lead the NHL with an average of 32.9 shots per game.