NHL on NBCSN: What should Flyers do with struggling Gostisbehere?

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Just two seasons ago, Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere managed to score 13 goals and 65 points in 78 games. In his first year, he accumulated 17 goals and 46 points in only 64 games. But lately, he’s been so bad that he can’t even get into his team’s lineup.

The 26-year-old has been a healthy scratch in each of the Flyers’ last two games. We know about his defensive miscues, but it’s his lack of offensive production that is concerning. He has just a goal and six points in 22 games this season and he’s picked up just one assist in his last eight games.

When he’s producing crazy offensive numbers, you can live with some of his defensive shortcomings. When he isn’t producing and isn’t reliable in his own end, it’s tough to trust him. He knows that. It’s up to him to find his confidence before it’s too late.

When he’s been on the ice this season, the Flyers have given up over 64 percent of the goals scored and more than 55 percent of the high-danger scoring chances. It’s not like he’s been forced to do a ton of heavy defensive lifting either, as his shifts start in the offensive zone 68 percent of the time (all stats provided by Natural Stat Trick).

“Mentally, when you’re playing with a lot of crap in your mind and you’ve got a lot of confidence issues, it’s harder to make those plays and adapt,” Gostisbehere said earlier this week, per NBC Sports Philly. “I’ve just got to reflect on myself and how I’ve just got to realize how good of a player I am and that players like me don’t grow on trees. For myself, I’ve just got to get back to that game.”

That’s an interesting quote, but the Flyers defenseman is right when he says players like him don’t grow on trees. Defenders that can move the puck like he does and produce 60-plus points per year are hard to find. That’s why, despite his struggles last season too, Philadelphia has decided against trading him. Something will have to give in the near future though.

The Flyers are one of a handful of teams that will battle it out for a playoff spot all season long. As of right now, they own the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ll need all the help they can get to make the postseason, so they either need to get Gostisbehere back on track or they have to trade him away to acquire reinforcements. As bad as he’s been, there are other teams that will see the value in giving him a change of scenery. Again, his skillset is so hard to find that teams will roll the dice on him. Sometimes a player just needs a new beginning to jump-start his career.

That’s not to say that the team needs to get rid of him as soon as possible, but they have to weigh the possibility that it might be time to move on. Gostisbehere has this year and three more years remaining on his contract that comes with a cap hit of $4.5 million, which is pretty digestible.

“I’ve never battled this much playing before,” Gostisbehere said. “For myself, I’ve got to figure some things out mentally and really find that way to be a good teammate, as well. I think that’s a big part — stay positive and get back to it.

“I’m going to watch the games, put myself in those people’s situations and see what I could have done there. Pick up on little things that I can change to make myself better.”

Now, we wait for him to get back into the lineup and see if he’s learned anything from his time in the press box.

Wednesday night’s studio coverage will be anchored by Kathryn Tappen and analysts Keith Jones and Anson Carter. Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire will call the action from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

NBCSN presents the national presentation of HeadStrong, an NBC Sports Regional Networks’ documentary about mental health and sports, Wednesday, November 27 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The feature documentary tells the story of four elite athletes who have faced mental health challenges: Justise Winslow, forward/guard for the Miami Heat; Nathan Braaten, former Oregon State University soccer player and founder of Dam Worth It; Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens tight end; and Clint Malarchuk, former goalie for the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres. Six-time Pro Bowl receiver and Founder of House Of Athlete Brandon Marshall also appears in the program and serves as an executive producer.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.