The Shayne Gostisbehere of the 2019-20 season is a ghost of the player the Philadelphia Flyers have come to know. He sits at just 6 points in 22 contests with the orange and black this season and has not performed well in the defensive zone. You can contribute this to a new head coach, or a new system, but “Ghost” is certainly not performing like the defenseman who scored 65 points in the 2017-18 season.
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Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault has no qualms benching players who are not performing to his expectations and Ghost is now set to sit in two straight games. Is this just a slump or is there a larger, underlying confidence issue? The bigger question, however, is does he need a change of scenery, and will the Flyers give it to him?
Just a Slump?
As you can see Vigneault still has a lot of confidence in Gostisbehere and believes that his slump will soon pass. We have seen Ghost go from the top power-play unit quarterback to sharing the point with fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen on the second unit. His average ice time per game has gone down from 19:40 last season to just 18:30 this season.
However, his advanced stats point to a positive impact on the ice with his Corsi sitting at 53.2% and his Fenwick at 52.1%. So why the huge drop off in offense? His shooting percentage stands at a miserable 2.7% which is more than three points lower than his career average. These stats certainly back up Vigneault’s assumption that Ghost will break his slump after a short stint in the press box.
The Eye Test
But it doesn’t pass the eye test for a lot of fans. The Ghost we have seen on the ice this season has been a shell of himself. His playing lacks confidence, and it shows. He seems less likely to jump up in the play than years past and his pinching has been decidedly less aggressive.
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When he does try to make a play, you can see he’s trying too hard. Going for the low percentage pass instead of making the smart play has to lead to an egregious amount of turnovers and giveaways. For these exact reasons, Vigneault has benched fellow Flyers’ defenseman, Philippe Myers, earlier this season.
Maybe all Ghost needs is a little bit of tough love. A few games in the press box can act as a soft reset and allow him to come back refreshed and focused. However, if his dismal play continues the Flyers will have no choice but to consider their options in the trade market.
What’s His Trade Value?
When a player is experiencing a slump, it seems to ignite the trade chatter ten-fold. I have seen a lot of discussion about trading Gostisbehere this season and I could not disagree more. I cannot in good faith support a trade because it would be selling low on a player that can still provide value to the team. We’ve seen Ghost’s ceiling and floor, and to move on from him now would be misguided. The return you would get for trading him this season is nowhere near what the team would want. I am confident that Ghost can bounce back this season, and can still be a serviceable part of the Flyers’ defensive core.
On the other hand, a change of scenery could be the jump Ghost needs to regain his once prolific form. Multiple players, after changing teams, have seen a jump in production and have performed well. I still stand firmly against trading Gostisbehere as I do not believe the Flyers will receive adequate value in return. In terms of team needs, the Flyers would need to get a defender back or a top offensive prospect. Neither of those options seems likely in the least, so I believe it to be in the best interest of the team to stand pat. Obviously, if an over-payment comes, the team should strongly consider it.