Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers Gostisbehere out three weeks
Getty Images

Flyers’ playoff hopes take a hit with Gostisbehere injury

If the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs began before Thursday’s games, the Philadelphia Flyers would make it. The Flyers face a challenge in maintaining their grip, and that hill got steeper with Shayne Gostisbehere sidelined.

The team announced that Gostisbehere is expected to miss about three weeks thanks to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. (The actual procedure is set to take place on Tuesday.)

The Flyers defense already started 2020 on a down note, as Justin Braun could be out through the All-Star break as he deals with a groin injury. Combine those defense injuries to Oskar Lindblom‘s battle with cancer and Nolan Patrick‘s continued migraine issues and the losses start to pile up.

Philly nonetheless stands as the East’s final wild card team thanks to a 23-15-6 record (52 points in 44 games played). The Flyers hold at least a two-point edge over teams underneath them, which isn’t a huge buffer, but it certainly could be worse.

What Flyers lose in Gostisbehere

Look, there’s no denying that Gostisbehere’s seen a significant drop in production.

Clearly, Gostisbehere played a little over his head when he reached 65 points in 2017-18. Otherwise, “Ghost Bear” fell in the 37-46 point range during recent seasons.

Unfortunately, his defensive lapses become tougher to stomach when that offense dries up. And, boy, did it ever dry up this season.

Gostisbehere managed just 12 points in 40 games so far in 2019-20. You can’t really blame puck luck, either; five of his points are goals, and his on-ice shooting percentage actually increased from 2018-19. Gostisbehere’s ice time follows similar patterns. He set an average he may never match in 2017-18 (21:27 TOI per game), settled down last season (19:40) and hit a new low as a full-timer this season (18:21).

Those stats are troubling, and honestly, a little bewildering … but the Flyers will miss even a struggling Ghost.

Without Gostisbehere, Flyers may need to lean on inexperienced players

Gostisbehere averaged 2:36 of his 18:21 TOI on the power play, so that stands out as the first riddle Alain Vigneault must solve.

Judging by Left Wing Lock’s combos, Ghost’s loss could be Travis Sanheim‘s gain. Sanheim only averaged 27 seconds of his 19:52 minutes on the power play, so it will be interesting to see if he plays a bit less in other situations, or merely carries a heavier burden.

In pondering the impact of Gostisbehere’s loss, NBC Sports Philly’s Jordan Hall noted the defense’s inexperience:

Including Wednesday night’s contest, [Matt] Niskanen has played 924 career games, while the other five healthy blueliners have combined to play 692 games — Ivan Provorov at 290, Hagg 178, Travis Sanheim 175, Philippe Myers 47 and [Mark] Friedman two.

It could have been worse

Honestly, when I hear “knee surgery” of any kind, I expect an absence of more than three weeks (or so). Tip your cap to modern medicine, in this case.

The damage seems less severe when you consider mitigating factors like off time, too.

Of course, things are tight for the Flyers. They can’t merely shrug their shoulders at six games. All things considered, it could have been worse, though.

Also, if Gostisbehere has been slowed by a nagging knee issue, maybe he’ll bounce back? Expecting too big of a rebound in 2019-20 might be foolish, but … hey, modern medicine has come a long way.

This absence will test how far Sanheim, Vigneault, and other Flyers have come, too.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Five players looking for a fresh start in 2020

3 Comments

The year is winding down and some people around the NHL will be happier to see it come to an end than others. 2019 was kind to players like Ryan O'Reilly, Nikita Kucherov and Mark Giordano, but there are others who are ready for a fresh start and a new year.

Who needs a new beginning?

Let’s take a look:

Andreas Athanasiou – Detroit Red Wings: 

Athanasiou put together his first 30-goal campaign last season, which increased expectations for him heading into 2019-20. But things haven’t gone nearly as well for him this year. The Red Wings forward has scored just five times in his first 32 games. And although the plus/minus stat is no longer as relevant as it used to be, it’s hard to ignore his league-worst minus-35 rating.

As difficult as this season has been for him, there would be no shortage of teams willing to trade for him if the Red Wings made him available. He’s fast, he can score and Detroit would be silly to give him away.

General manager Steve Yzerman wasn’t born yesterday, so he knows that players like Athanasiou don’t grow on trees. The rebuilding Wings should be as patient as they can be with their speedy winger, but he needs the calendar to turn to 2020 in a hurry.

•  Alex Galchenyuk – Pittsburgh Penguins: 

Since the start of 2018, Galchenyuk has played for three different teams and he’s been traded twice. He went from Montreal to Arizona and then from Arizona to Pittsburgh. That’s not a good sign for any player, let alone someone who is still relatively young and who’s scored 30 goals in the NHL before.

The Coyotes gave up Max Domi to get their hands on Galchenyuk, who they believed could be a full-time center in the NHL. Not only did he not last down the middle, but the ‘Yotes decided they had seen enough of him in just one year. They didn’t give him away, as he was part of a trade for Phil Kessel, but that’s probably not the scenario they had in mind when they acquired him.

Things haven’t gone much better for him in Pittsburgh, either. He’s battled through injuries and a lack of consistency that has seemed to plague him for a while now. Even with all the injuries the Penguins are going through, Galchenyuk remains on the team’s fourth line.

Galchenyuk’s had multiple changes of scenery and they haven’t worked out well for him. What’s next?

•  Shayne Gostisbehere – Philadelphia Flyers:

Gostisbehere is a prime “change of scenery” candidate heading into the new year. The 26-year-old struggled last season under head coaches Dave Hakstol and Scott Gordon, and not much has changed with Alain Vigneault behind the bench in 2019-20.

After scoring 65 points in 78 games in 2017-18, Gostisbehere managed to pick up 37 points in the same amount of contests last year. This season, things have gotten even worse offensively, as he’s amassed five goals and 11 points in 32 contests.

The Flyers defender was even made a healthy scratch in three consecutive games between Nov. 23-27. Yeah, that’s how bad things have been for him this season. Now that he’s put together back-to-back difficult seasons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see general manager Chuck Fletcher unload him before the trade deadline.

• Ilya Kovalchuk – Free Agent: 

Imagine signing a three-year, $18 million deal on July 1st 2018 and never even making it to the mid-way point of the contract. That’s exactly what happened to Kovalchuk in Los Angeles. The Kings were so fed up with the 36-year-old that they were willing to keep dead money on the cap this year and next year just to get rid of him.

The Russian winger put up respectable numbers last season when he scored 16 goals and 34 points in 64 games, but those didn’t justify the commitment they made to him two summers ago.

Now, Kovalchuk is reportedly willing to play for peanuts and he wants to be on a contender. The questions is, who is willing to take him on at this point?

If you pro-rate last year’s totals over 82 games, he was on pace to score 21 goals. You’d think that a team would be willing to take a shot at a 20-goal scorer if it were to cost them around $1 million. Will anyone do it? Is a general manager going to pull that trigger on that kind of deal?

P.K. Subban – New Jersey Devils:

Expectations around the New Jersey Devils increased once they acquired Subban from the Nashville Predators on Day 2 of the 2019 NHL Draft. Instead of taking them to another level, the veteran has struggled mightily. He’s accumulated just two goals and three assists in 33 games this season and he’s failed to pick up a point in 21 straight games.

The 30-year-old has two years remaining on his contract that comes with a cap hit of $9 million. That means that he’ll probably have to work through his current issues in New Jersey, as it would be shocking to see anyone trade for him at this point.

Subban has dealt with a couple of different injuries over the last few seasons, including a back ailment he had to fight through over the last few seasons. Is that what’s slowing him down right now?

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.

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

4 Comments

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Seattle should go after Babcock; Scratching Turris

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Mikko Rantanen could return to the Avalanche’s lineup by this weekend. (NHL.com)

• The expansion Seattle team should pursue Mike Babcock if he’s still available whenever they decide to name a coach. (Seattle Times)

• Sheldon Keefe’s been focused on adapting to his new team. (TSN)

• Keefe also centers his practices around skills-focused drills. (The Leafs Nation)

• Are the Predators doing the right thing by scratching Kyle Turris? (On the Forecheck)

Jake Guentzel has been good even without Sidney Crosby as his center. (Pensburgh)

Robin Lehner has had his share of struggles in the shootout. (NBC Sports Chicago)

• Adam Boqvist is putting up some solid numbers in the AHL. (Rotoworld)

Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have to be considered one of the best one-two punches in the NHL. (The Hockey News)

• Mark Spector breaks down Jesse Puljujarvi’s risks and options with the Edmonton Oilers. (Sportsnet.ca)

• The injury to Anthony Mantha doesn’t sound too good for the Red Wings. (Detroit Free Press)

• The long-term injury list is hurting the Sabres’ chances of making a splash in the trade market. (Sporting News)

• The Johnny Gaudreau trade rumors are absurd. (My NHL trade rumors)

Charlie McAvoy hasn’t scored yet, but he’s focused on his defensive game. (Boston Herald)

Shayne Gostisbehere is off to a horrific start this season. (Broad Street Hockey)

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.

NHL Fantasy: Krejci, Perry highlight this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Brock Nelson, Islanders – C/LW: Nelson set a career-high last season with 53 points in 82 games and at this rate the 2019-20 campaign will be even better. He has eight goals and 19 points in 21 contests, though that point-per-game pace has been skewed by his recent run of nine points in six contests. It also helps that Nelson is averaging 19:01 minutes a game, which is up from 17:58 minutes in 2018-19 and way up from 14:44 minutes in 2017-18. While I do expect him to slow down somewhat, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him reach the 60-point milestone this season.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, Blue Jackets – LW/RW: Bjorkstrand got off to a pretty rough start this season with just four goals and six points in 19 games. He’s been red hot lately though with a goal and six points in his last three contests. While he’s likely to be a borderline player in standard fantasy leagues overall in 2019-20, he’s worth taking a chance on as long as he’s hot.

Anthony Duclair, Senators – LW/RW: Duclair has been somewhat hot-and-cold this season and right now he’s hot. He has four goals and six points in his last four contests. He’s up to 10 goals and 15 points in 23 contests this season, which puts him on pace to best his previous career-high of 44 points. That’s not surprising though, given that he’s averaging 16:25 minutes per game, which is up from just 12:42 minutes in 2018-19 when he recorded 33 points in 74 contests.

Corey Perry, Stars – RW: Perry is definitely a risk, but one that could pay off nicely. He didn’t make his season debut until Oct. 16th due to a foot injury. After that, he was slow to get going with his new team, scoring two goals and four points in 14 games. Now he’s showing signs of getting going though. He contributed a goal and an assist on Nov. 19th and he registered three assists on Nov. 21st. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Perry as a major offensive threat, but he’s also had a lot of injury troubles in recent years. There’s absolutely a chance that his recent strong performances are nothing more than a blip on the radar, but if you’re feeling bold, this is a time to try him.

[For more fantasy sports analysis, check out Rotoworld]

Anthony Beauvillier, Islanders – C/LW: Beauvillier enjoyed four consecutive multi-point games from Nov. 13-21. He’s up to eight goals and 16 points in 21 after that run, which is a huge start for him given that he was limited to 28 points in 81 contests last season. That said, his jump in production has gone hand-in-hand with added responsibilities. He logged 14:39 minutes per game in 2018-19, which at the time was a career-high for him, and that’s jumped to an average of 17:52 minutes this season.

David Krejci, Bruins – C: Krejci had 73 points in 81 games last season and the 2019-20 campaign is shaping up to be similarly strong. He has four goals and 15 points in 17 contests so far. He’s only owned 31% of leagues despite his strong offensive numbers. That’s largely due to him being only eligible as a center and because the vast majority of his points coming from assists, but even still, he certainly has value. At the least, you can keep him in mind as a potential stopgap measure if your team takes a hit due to injuries.

Anthony Cirelli, Lightning – C: Cirelli is another center-only option, but he’s a very different case than Krejci. Rather than be just a steady option, Cirelli is someone you’d want to consider taking because of how hot he is. He has four goals and seven points in his last four contests. He’s not likely to be a long-term option, but if you’re hoping to just ride a hot player, then he’s certainly worthy of consideration.

Mats Zuccarello, Wild – RW: Zuccarello had just an assist in his first seven games, but that was probably due in part to him adjusting to life with the Wild. Since then, he’s scored four goals and 10 points in 12 contests. He is only averaging 15:49 minutes, which is somewhat concerning, but given how well he’s done lately, he’s still a good pickup in most situations.

Bryan Rust, Penguins – LW/RW: Rust is still only owned in 34% of Yahoo leagues, but he’s been really good this season. Part of the reason why he’s been able to fly under the radar is because he didn’t make his season debut until Oct. 26th. In terms of his points pace though, he’s been superb with eight goals and 13 points in 12 contests. He’s never recorded more than 38 points in a single season, so it’s reasonable to ask if he can keep this up, but so far he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s only been held off the scoresheet in two contests and is on a four-game point streak.

Brett Connolly, Panthers – LW/RW: With 11 goals and 18 points in 24 contests this season, Connolly has been pretty solid. It’s been something of a hot-and-cold campaign for him, so he might be more of a player to grab in certain situations than to own all the time. Even if that’s the case though, this would be the situation to grab him in given that he’s hot right now. He has five goals and seven points in six contests. 

Players You May Want To Drop

P.K. Subban, Devils – D: I had high hopes for what Subban could bring to the Devils, but he’s ended up doing very little offensively. He has just two goals and five points in 22 games this season. He hasn’t shown any signs of turning around either. In fact, he has no points over his last 10 contests.

Viktor Arvidsson, Predators – LW/RW: Arvidsson is unfortunately a pretty cut-and-dry case. He was injured Saturday night and is projected to miss the next four-to-six weeks as a result. He’s a solid forward, but not good enough that he’s worth holding onto for over a month while he’s notplaying.

Conor Garland, Coyotes – LW/RW: Garland has managed to score 10 goals in 25 games, but he hasn’t done a whole lot else. Those goals have come in bunches too with his latest batch being three goals in four games from Nov. 12-18th.  Now that he’s cooled down again, he’s probably not worth hanging onto, but it would still be good to keep an eye on him as you may want to grab him again later.

Andreas Johnsson, Maple Leafs – LW/RW: Johnsson is one of those forwards whose worth owning in standard leagues when he’s hot, but not at all times. Right now, he’s gone cold with no points in his last six games. There’s also a secondary consideration with him because his role may be somewhat reduced under new head coach Sheldon Keefe. He logged over 18 minutes in six of his final seven games under Mike Babcock. In Keefe’s first two games, he was on the ice for 15:49 minutes and 16:12 minutes. Not a huge drop, but it is noteworthy.

Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers – D: Gostisbehere set a career-high with 65 points in 2017-18 before dropping to 37 points in 2018-19. This season is shaping up to be another sharp decline for Gostisbehere as he’s scored just a goal and six points in 22 contests so far. He’s also averaging 18:30 minutes, which is his lowest ice time per game since his two-game stint as a rookie in 2014-15.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey. 

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.