The Inexcusable Hypocrisy of Dave Hakstol

Photo credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

News: Shayne Gostisbehere is a healthy scratch tonight for the first time in his career, this on the day he was named Philly Sports Athlete of the Year.

Everyone is freaking out about Dave Hakstol scratching Ghost, especially in favor of Andrew FUCKING MacDonald, and rightfully so. The Flyers’ team defense has been an issue all season long, and while Gostisbehere’s play in his own zone clearly is not his biggest strength, I often think it’s vastly overstated as a weakness. Besides, the best defense is having the puck, and that’s where he excels. Gostisbehere hasn’t been the flashy, dynamic offensive force to this point like he was when taking the league by storm as a rookie. There’s been something of a sophomore slump, but that’s only in comparison to expectations since he spoiled us last season. He’s still the highest-scoring defenseman and fourth-leading scorer on the team. Additionally, his possession metrics through 17 games are actually better (62.7% Corsi, which is 14.2% better relative to his teammates) than last season (59.4%, 12.1%). The fact that his PDO (team’s on-ice shooting percentage + save percentage) is four points lower than last season (98.9% vs 103.0%) in part because of atrocious goaltending certainly doesn’t help his perceived performance.

If Gostisbehere was so clearly struggling and actively hurting the team on the ice night in and night out, I’d have more understanding of the motivation to sit him for a game so he can watch from above, see things differently and evaluate the parts of his game that Hakstol believes are lacking. Don’t even get me started on replacing him with MacDonald, who’s going to be directly responsible for at least three goals tonight against the Jets.

Here’s how Hakstol explained the decision:

Lots of word diarrhea but let’s focus on “growth,” “development,” and “accountability.” I’d like to see Hakstol apply these terms to himself. My biggest gripe with Hakstol over this move is that I think it perfectly reflects the troubling nature of what we’re seeing emerge with regard to his being as a coach. He institutes excellent systems and is a legitimately sharp tactician. However, where he’s majorly deficient is in overall player treatment and personnel usage, which have run the gamut from uneven, to mystifying, to downright incompetent. Is this a product of working with teenagers for 20 years and never having to worry about coaching them for more than four years at most? Of consistently recruiting and icing superior talent while going against a diluted pool of competition? Regardless of how many former players, coaches and hockey people vouch for him on the topic, I don’t think this is a criticism that can simply be waved away as a lazy generalization. We saw this fundamental disconnect with Chip Kelly in the NFL and how his totalitarian style that succeeded in the college environment rubbed his adult players the wrong way.

Anyway, back to the problem of player treatment and personnel usage. It took literally the worst game of Andrew MacDonald’s pathetic career for Hakstol to finally relent and make him a healthy scratch. Even then, he couldn’t wait to get him back in the lineup. Meanwhile, Nick Cousins and Michael Raffl are scapegoated while Chris Vandevelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare are beyond reproach and incapable of being scratched even though they’re useless (I don’t want to hear about important they are to a penalty kill that, oh by the way, ranks 25th). Remember how Craig Berube refused to hold Nicklas Grossmann responsible for his poor play no matter how overmatched he was and never made him a healthy scratch, yet had a different set of expectations for other guys? Every coach has this issue to a certain extent and plays favorites with skaters of middling-to-no skill because he feels they add a necessary element to some underexposed, underappreciated facet of the game. That doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

If I felt Hakstol was fair and objective in his treatment of players and held everyone to the same standard, perhaps I’d be more on board and willing to see his side here. But we’re talking about someone who willfully puts MacDonald and Bellemare on the ice in 3-on-3 overtime, then has the audacity to suggest that Travis Konecny, a player of incredible skill who’s easily been one of the team’s best three forwards for the first five weeks of the season, hasn’t earned the right to show what he can do in the game’s biggest moments. It’s becoming more and more obvious that Hakstol is not running a meritocracy, at the expense of putting the lineup on the ice that gives his team the best chance to win games. And for what? To teach a lesson that doesn’t even make any sense?

It’s staring everyone right in the face that the Flyers have the talent to compete with the top teams, as well as rostering players on the Phantoms who should be in the bottom-six forward group over current regulars. The goaltending can’t possibly continue to be this putrid, and the team’s positive underlying microstats signal that a dramatic improvement in results should be on the horizon. Maybe this will end up being a “lose the battle to win the war” type of move and Gostisbehere responds — because the “lesson” better not last more than one fucking game. Even if that’s the case, Hakstol’s negative trend with personnel makes me pessimistic that he’s going to ever be able to fully accentuate his best traits as a coach at this level.

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33 Responses

  1. Dan, you strike me as the kind of flyers fan who yells SHOOOT every time someone on the powerplay has the puck and doesn’t have a shooting lane. Can you even shoot, let alone skate?

  2. It actually isn’t that hard if you stop writing long posts and take a minute to think…. Ghost has more to give than he is currently giving…more natural talent than what we are seeing. Someone like MacDonald doesn’t have any skill, therefore it isn’t like he is not trying, he just blows, What is so hard about this? Sending a message to a player that he isn’t playing to his full ability?

  3. YES! It’s the team defense that is at fault. Ghost in particular. That’s the reason why an Elite, Top Five NHL goalie such as myself has the worst save percentage and GAA in the league!

  4. I have both played and coached hockey. I can say I’ve never seen a hockey captain with less character than G. He lacks passion, enthusiasm and work ethic. He stinks 5 on 5 and you barely hear his named called unless it is a PP or 3 on 3 in overtime. He needs to be benched or better yet traded. He is nothing more than a PP specialist

    1. He stinks… yep.. just look at his points.. he is awful, make Schenn captain! or Read! G stinks, he never puts up numbers.. he is awful!

  5. Couple things: Hak is sending a message to the whole team: “Defensive coverages stink and we are scoring too many goals to be losing games.” Benching AMAC or Schultz doesn’t send the same message to everybody else on the team that nobody is immune to being held accountable. There isn’t enough talent on the offense to sit one of the big heavy hitters (G or Jake) or somebody who hasn’t deserved it like Simmer. Benching Ghost for a game sends a message to everybody, and let’s him take a game off to relax and reset.

    2nd thing, games played this year matters for the expansion draft. They have to expose 1 defenseman and two offense players that have played at least 40 games this year, which if AMAC and Pebbles/VDV earn those 40 games, they get exposed and no loss for the Flyers if they get picked up. Hexy is planning for next year to be the year they start making moves with young defensemen coming up from LHV and cap space to add to the offense. If the player has long-term value in Hexy’s eyes, he’s willing to take the lump now and have them protected from the draft.

    I know it’s hard for Philly fans to look past the game being played, but Hexy has the long view in mind and I’m sure Hak is playing the good company man and sitting/starting players that take next year into account.

          1. That’s a solid 3rd grade response…way to get me douchebag!
            Too scared to post under a real name says a lot – oh wait, is this post too long?

    1. This is one of single best postings I have ever seen on this website. It is definitely better than the article above. The post lent some good insight into team strategy.

      Thank you Bleue

  6. “It’s staring everyone right in the face that the Flyers have the talent to compete with the top teams”

    Are you kidding me? they have maybe 4 or 5 guys who can score consistently, (and as mentioned earlier, primarily on the PP) and fill the other 7/8 spots with guys who you hope might luck into a goal occasionally

    1. 4 to 5 players is extremely, extremely generous. The best teams don’t have that. Flyers have 2 and a half. Simmons is the half because when play tightens, he can’t get his garbage goals

  7. The coach is wearing thin on me but I understand what he is trying to do. This is a risky move. It will either work great or he will completely lose the team.

  8. Ed Snider told the slumlord down here that if it wasn’t for the WHA in the 1970s, The Flyers would not have won any Cups. Ed sold his soul for those two Cups and is now paying for that.

  9. I hope Lurie continues to be,,,,,,,Lurie. Then he will be the worst owner. At least I didn’t parade around with the Asian chick, Suzie Wong. My gold digging wives were all Americans . Hey Jeffie, You had to win that last game which was meaningless last year. Instead of getting a real soft game in London in Week Four where you could have marketed your team in Europe, you’re going to get slaughtered in Seattle. Even your Auntie Gotrocks knows that was dumb. HEY CONLIN , TELL THAT CHEAP BA5TARD TO TURN UP THE AIR.

  10. This is a terrible article. Any idiot can see that Ghost has been playing poorly the past couple of games. I agree he is better than Macdonald(obviously) and for that reason you need to squash his poor play early so that he can grow to be even better than he already is. i think solid move by Hak. Timing of the award sucked but who gives a flying F. Choose a new sport to write about and grab a bowl of hot ramen

    1. Absolutely, every player that has spent time as a healthy scratch so far this season has come back better and more focused on using the parts of their game that got them to the NHL in the first place. Dan’s an idiot.

  11. You don’t scratch a young player the same day he won an award.. it looks bad and embarrasses the player. Bad move unless it was disciplinary… bottom line a mac streit and schultz have been way worse than ghost.. u don’t get better without him in the lineup. Teams are game planning for ghost now , rushing him more and hitting him way more.. was bound to happen.. now ghost will have to adjust his play…. by playing.. you do not get better by sitting.

    I’m sorry but the giroux hate is ridiculous. . Last 5 years combined he’s the number one scorer in the nhl.. he’s in top 10 right now top 5 in assists.. is great on the faceoffs…. you do not have to score goals to be great. Adam oats made a living passing the puck. Group is great defensively can play all special teams and consistently is in top 13 points year in and out. Ok he doesn’t score 50 but always gives at least 20… people w this group hate do not know hockey

  12. The flip side though is I’m not paying any interest on that
    $5800 yet. I dream to visit the various countries, to obtain familiarized with intriguing people.

    That is, if the unemployment rate doubles, so does the credit card charge-off rate.

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