As we trudge though another mediocre, uninspiring Flyers season, one of the team’s young guns that we have read and heard so much about has finally arrived from the Phantoms to give the Flyers a much needed spark. With the injury to Mark Streit, Shayne Gostisbehere was called up from the Phantoms and has made an immediate impact. In eight games he has 3 goals and 2 assists for five points. Two of his goals were overtime game winners.
But the Ghost’s impact has been more than just about his numbers. Gostisbehere has provided the Flyers with the dynamic puck moving defensman that they have been lacking for years. His quickness and playmaking ability jumps right off the TV screen whenever you watch him play. The Flyers power play is a lot more dangerous now that they have a defensman who can back other teams off of their blue line, pass and shoot. Teams will no longer to be able to just collapse down low on the penalty kill and focus on players like Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. With a guy like Gostisbehere, who’s shot was clocked at 96 miles per hour on a goal he scored last week, teams will have to respect his shot and will have to cover more of the ice when trying to kill a Flyers power play. All of these things will make the Flyers a much tougher team to play against and will make them a much more fun team to watch.
And he is only one guy. Gostisbehere has given us a glimpse in to what, in my opinion, is a very bright future for the Flyers. If one guy like Gostisbehere can make this big of an impact in such a short time, how much of an impact and how different a team will the Flyers be when not only Gostisbehere, but also Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin are all on the Flyers blue line? Just the thought of it is scintillating. As good as Gostisbehere is, Sanheim and Provorov are even more highly touted prospects than Gostisbehere was. Both men have even higher ceilings than Gostisbehere does. Imagine the difference one will see in the Flyers game when they have not just one dynamic puck mover but possibly as many as five. Even Samuel Morin, who is known more for his physical play, is a guy who is a very good skater for his size and who knows how to make that first good pass out of his own zone. With a blue line of Michael Del Zotto, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, it will have been completely transformed from a slow, plodding group of fifth and sixth defensmen to a group of quick skating, puck moving defensmen. It will be night and day.
A lot of times when people think of a team’s defense corps as a whole they think of the impact they have on keeping the puck out of their own net. Or they think of the Erik Karlson, Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey types who can rush the puck from end to end and impact a team’s offense in that way. But, there’s a lot more to it than that. The Flyers are currently last in the NHL in offense. Right away one jumps to the conclusion it’s because the Flyers don’t have enough forwards that can score. That is partially true. As we all know by now the Flyers only have thee bonafide goal scorers in Gioux, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds and after that the well runs dry when it comes to the Flyers forward group.
But, there’s more to it that. Offense isn’t just a result of fierce forechecking or skilled plays made by a team’s forwards. A lot of times, a team’s offense gets started in their own zone. A lot of times a team’s offense can get kickstarted by just one crisp outlet pass from a defensman. Or a fleet footed defenssman picking up a loose puck in his own zone and using his speed to skate the puck out of his own end. I was watching the NHL Network just a few days ago and former Toronto Maple Leaf forward Mike Johnson did a great job of explaining just how important is to have puck moving defensmen when it comes to a team’s transition game and offense. He explained how as a winger, you natural instinct is to “go”. Meaning you want to get the puck and go on the offense. He explained how when a team has defensmen that can’t get the forwards the puck and get the transition game started, the forwards are forced to come back and help the defensmen out in their own. This causes a team to get bogged down in their own end. With the Flyers having so many slow, plodding defensmen, this probably goes a long way towards explaining why the Flyers are at the bottom of the league in scoring and why they get outshot on a consistent basis.
That’s why once the Flyers make the transition from a defense corps that is slow and plodding to one that is quick and fast, they will look like a much different team. Wish we could hurry up and fast forward to the 2016-17 season. It’s going to be exciting to watch.