VOORHEES, N.J. >> Considering the way the Flyers have been so punchless of late, not scoring a goal since three games ago (a 122:49 scoreless run), looking fairly inept on the power play for the past few weeks (3-for-their-last-32), you might think coach Dave Hakstol would be more than ready to end his imposed exile of Shayne Gostisbehere.
Upon Hakstol’s order, the Flyers’ second-year sparkplug on the blue line and power play quarterback has been relegated to a press box seat for the past four games. With the power play looking disorganized and the offense having gone off the rails while he’s been a healthy scratch, it would make sense to have “Ghost” back in the lineup when the Flyers host the New York Islanders Thursday night.
But while being interrogated by season ticket holders at a gathering of those fans Tuesday night, and again while speaking to the media after practice at the Skate Zone Wednesday, Hakstol was still holding back on the issue of Gostisbehere’s availability.
“I haven’t made that lineup decision,” Hakstol said. “I’ll make it tomorrow.”
Gostisbehere, who last played Jan. 31 in Carolina, confirmed Wednesday that Hakstol had also left him in the dark about when he could expect to play again. But at 23, no matter how popular a player he happens to be, no matter how much success he enjoyed as a rookie, the Ghost was offering no illusions about his place on this team right now.
“It’s been tough, but I really have to have a good attitude about it,” Gostisbehere said. “If you’re going to have a sour attitude about it, it’s not going to help anyone; it’s not going to help anything. It’s not going to help myself.”
What has helped, he added, was the work his coaches have put him through during his stay on the Do Not Enter roster list.
“I got better in the gym. I got better on the (practice) ice. I’ve been working on things ... and I just really have been watching games,” said Gostisbehere, who in 48 games has but 4 goals and 21 points.
As a left-handed defender playing on the right side, something he did for the first time last season, Gostisbehere added that he needed to learn more about how to maneuver in certain situations. So he has spent a lot of time watching other teams’ left-handed defenders who play at right defense, and “how they reacted to plays. That’s been the biggest teaching points for me.
“It’s definitely motivating,” Gostisbehere, worst on the Flyers in plus-minus at a negative-19, said of sitting out games. “It’s not the best thing in the world. It actually sucks. But you’ve got to take positives from it and be a good teammate about it, too. You can’t just feel bad for yourself and expect people to feel bad for you.
“I don’t take it personally at all. I look at it as my coaches are doing the best for me and for my developemnt as a player.”
Despite having a few years on fellow defender Ivan Provorov, Gostisbehere said he still considers himself “a young guy in the league,” and as such thinks he still has much to learn.
“I know what my coaches are doing. They’re not doing this to punish me. They’re doing what’s best for me and what’s best for the team,” Gostisbehere said. “You’ve got to look at it in a way that, some coaches wouldn’t give a (crap) about you. But I look at it that they’re doing what’s best for me. They’re teaching me a lot right now and I respect them for that. It’s easy to sit back and be mad at people and have a bad attitude. But I don’t think that’s who I am and who I am as a teammate.”
While working hard in practice and working his NHL package hard on the big screen at night, Gostisbehere said he’s also consulted old colleagues and a few family advisors on his current career state.
“My sister, mom, dad, and especially my grandpa,” said Gostisbehere, the last reference to his maternal grandfather Denis Brodeur, a native of Quebec who introduced his toddler grandson to hockey in South Florida. “And my uncle, too. My uncle doesn’t know much about hockey, but he definitely knows how to cheer me up.
“Initally it sucks. You flinch a little when (Hakstol) says that you’re not in the lineup. Then it happens again. But I talked to family members, guys I played with in the past and ex-coaches ... I take bits and pieces from everyone giving me advice and stuff, especially my coaches here. That’s a big thing for me, to be the best teammate and don’t be a guy your teammates are distracted by.”
So he has toiled on, as his teammates continue to be foiled offensively in his absence.
But to that fans group Tuesday night (available for viewing on-line) and again after practice Wednesday, Hakstol is defending his players and his own decision about benching Gostisbehere.
“Look, the reality over the last couple of weeks is that we’re 4-2-1,” said Hakstol, reviewing his team’s last seven games. “Yet you get the feeling on certain days that we haven’t won a hockey game in three weeks. ... Mindset is everything. Positive. Sticking together. Doing the things we do and doing them well. Those are the things that this team is going to do.”
In that respect, he’ll get no argument from his young defenseman waiting for another chance to play. Whenever that may come.
NOTES >> Goalie Michal Neuvirth skipped practice Wednesday with what the team called “an illness.” According to general manager Ron Hextall, Neuvirth should be ready to go Wednesday night. Then again, Steve Mason, who backed up Neuvirth the last three games, seems ready too. “I’ve been working hard the last week here,” Mason said. “It’s no fun sitting out but that’s just the way it’s going right now.” ... With Travis Konecny out for 4 to 6 weeks with what’s believed to be knee and ankle issues, Hextall said he won’t call anybody up from the Phantoms in time for the Isles game. Expect that to happen soon afterward, though.