Philadelphia Flyers: Is Ghost finally toast?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Flyers will be without Shayne Gostisbehere for several weeks, and his absence in the lineup points to a larger issue about whether or not he fits with the team anymore.

It’s hard to remember, but a few years ago, Shayne Gostisbehere was quickly becoming one of the most exciting young players in the NHL.

My, how things have changed for Ghost and the Philadelphia Flyers.

No longer the shiny new toy, Gostisbehere has instead fallen into an area occupied by many in sports: decent, with flashes of what could have made them special, but not enough to propel them to star level. Ghost seemed like he was headed there. But whether it’s physical reasons or bad luck or the old idea of “other teams have a book on him now” or some combination thereof, it just hasn’t been happening for him.

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And it hasn’t been happening for a while, long enough that it now appears that Shayne Gostisbehere IS this player. He’s not a dynamo suffering through a slump. He’s just, well, average. And for a lot of players, average is fine. But for a player making $4.5 million and expected to be a team’s primary offensive defenseman and power play quarterback? Average doesn’t cut it.

Few have burst onto the scene as Gostisbehere did in late 2015, and he quickly established point production from the blueline as his stock-in-trade. Pumping home overtime goal after overtime goal after overtime goal, it genuinely seemed like the good times were here to stay and that the Flyers had struck gold with the player they had taken in the third round of the 2012 draft.

Fast forward a few years, and he just seems like he doesn’t fit anymore. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Flyers should do everything in their power to trade him, though, as he can still hold some value. And it’s not like the Flyers are so brimming with talent that they can just subtract players like Gostisbehere and not not feel any ill effects of it. But it should be actively explored.

Trade rumors have swirled before, and while Ghost’s injury layoff will quiet them down for a bit, his (hopefully soon) return to health could serve to ignite them once again. I don’t know what they could get for him, that’s not my job to figure out, but GM Chuck Fletcher and company will no doubt have some feelers out.

While I wouldn’t classify Gostisbehere as a “headache” or as having a necessarily horrendous contract, it may be a case of two teams deciding to swap players in need of a fresh start. I don’t believe that Ghost is so damaged or his contract so untradeable that they would only fetch pennies on the dollar; the return might be decent.

But be aware, the Flyers aren’t going to magically get some definitively better player or a high draft pick for him. Instead, the return might reasonably be something like a 3rd-round pick or a promising but as yet unproven forward. Salary cap considerations, however, might be the deciding factor, with teams trying to match money as closely as possible.

Despite his flaws, Ghost is still good enough that he shouldn’t be a contract dump, but one has to wonder how much further his stock will fall. Last year’s 37-point season in 78 games was bad enough. With just 12 points in 40 games so far in 2019-20, things have gotten even worse.

Lack of offensive production plus defensive shortcomings that seem to bubble up on a nightly basis? Unfortunately, Gostisbehere just isn’t doing enough at either end right now to show that he’s part of the solution for this Flyers club.

Blame it on the hot start making us think that there was a truly special player on our hands. As Flyers fans, we should have known better. The greatest trick that Shayne Gostisbehere ever pulled was to convince us he was a star player. But now, the thrill is gone, and he just seems superfluous.

Next. Flyers: Jekyll & Hyde season continues. dark

We should all feel like we’ve been ghosted.