It’s a common trope in sports, especially when things aren’t going well for a team. It goes something like this:
“When our offense is good, our defense isn’t, and when our defense is good our offense isn’t, so we have to find a way to make both of them happen at the same time.”
You know who says that?
Seven-win football teams.
Rebuilding baseball teams.
Tanking basketball teams.
Last place hockey teams.
We’ve seen a lot of each over the past calendar year. Sometimes it’s always darkest before dawn – as evidenced by the pleasant surprise that is the Eagles.
Sometimes, it’s all part of the process, no matter how long said process takes – as we’re seeing with the great highs and frustrating lows of the Sixers.
And other times, we don’t know what to make of it. We think it should be evidence of progress, but there are so many uncertainties that the positive results could be just around the corner or still a bit down the road past all the construction, like it is for the Phillies.
And although the Flyers – despite losing their fourth consecutive game Saturday, 5-4 in overtime to the Calgary Flames – aren’t technically in last place anymore (thanks to the loser point they are one point better than last place Carolina), they don’t seem to fit any of the three previously described situations.
Instead, theirs seems more stagnant. More epidemic. A more repetitive spin cycle with no clear determination of when it will stop turning.
And although there were positives in the loss to Calgary, like excellent play in 5-on-5, especially over the final two periods, or a really good effort from rookie Nolan Patrick who played arguably his best game as a pro; or scoring from elsewhere beside the top line, as three of the Flyers four goals came without all three Ginger Beard Men on the ice, there were self-inflicted wounds that cost the Flyers another point in the standings.
And these leaky performances that cost the team a point here and a point there tend to add up quickly for a team that is trying to remain relevant.
Not sure what was in the Wells Fargo Center water Saturday, but Shayne Gostisbehere needs to assure he doesn’t drink it again any time soon.
Players have bad games from time to time. They all do. But this one was particularly bad for Gostisbehere, who lost both his cool and his fundamentals at times for the Flyers.
He took consecutive penalties in the second period that led to goals for the Flames and erased a two-goal Flyers lead for the second straight game.
To his credit, he owned his mistakes:
” I Just wasn’t a good team player… [It was the] heat of the moment. Obviously there was no excuses for something like that to happen. I wasn’t thinking about my team there. I really let my team down. I think it was upset overall. I took it out on the wrong guy… Collectively, we have been pretty disciplined. Just the past couple games, it’s gotten away from us a bit. When things like that happen on my end, it’s unacceptable for my team. I got to be a better team player in that fashion.”
A stand-up guy like Gostisbehere often gets a softer landing spot from both the media and the fans because of his forthright response – but it wasn’t lost on his coach that his actions were detrimental to his team.
“It pisses you off when things are a little bit within our control at that point in time,” Dave Hakstol said. “We did a lot of good things in this hockey game tonight, but you need to play the full 60 minutes. That 10-minute span, cost us a point in this hockey game today.”
What did Gostisbehere do?
Well, first thing he did was get on the last nerve of referee Tim Peel.
Gostisbehere was frustrated about a couple of plays that weren’t being called penalties and decided to repeatedly let Peel know about it – both on the ice and off.
Then Peel, who is notorious for having rabbit ears when it comes to players riding him, had enough and dinged Gostisbehere with a bench minor.
If I may go off on a slight tangent here, finding out what the bench minor was for was like trying to have someone give you the code to a combination lock at Fort Knox.
After the game, there was some unsubstantiated chatter after Gostisbehere had already spoken to the media that it may have involved Ghost reaching onto the ice from the bench and making contact with a Flames player, so we all sought clarification.
Here was the ridiculous process that was undertaken:
- We had a team spokesman ask Gostisbehere if he could confirm if the reason he got the penalty was for something he said, or something he physically did. His response, through the spokesman – “It was just a bench minor, that’s all I know.”
- We weren’t satisfied, so we asked if Ron Hextall would comment about it. We were told Hextall declined to speak to the media until Sunday because he didn’t want to say anything publicly until after defenseman Radko Gudas had his hearing for his cross check to the head delivered in Winnipeg Thursday.
- The media requested a pool reporter to go speak to the referees to see if they would explain. The pool reporter was me. I went down to the officials locker room where they have their own spokespeople. I explained we were looking for a clarification. The spokespeople went into the locker room, emerged 30 seconds later and said, “It’s just a bench minor.” When I followed up, asking if it was for a verbal or physical action, they replied, “we just told you it’s a bench minor, that’s it. Thank you.” This, of course, is more evidence that the NHL is over-protective of their officials. We weren’t looking to see if this was a case of right or wrong by the officials, but rather the cause of a call, but they still give you nothing. It’s pathetic. It’s a freaking hockey game, not international espionage. Anyway… we move on.
- Hakstol was next. I didn’t have great expectations that I’d get an answer here, but it had to be asked anyway. I didn’t ask all three questions. I chimed in on the bench minor:
Of those penalties, which one bothered you the most?
“They all do, they’re all penalties. They’re penalties that could have been within our control.”
What was the explanation you were given for the bench minor?
“I didn’t ask for one.”
So, you knew right away it was a penalty, there was no debate about it?
“I’m not going to talk about it. I said I didn’t ask for one, I look at what our responsibilities are, not what the decision process of the referees are.”