A year ago, Shayne Gostisbehere was sitting on top of the world. Now he regularly sits in the press box, a healthy scratch for the Philadelphia Flyers in their past three games.
Gostisbehere has slipped from being a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 2015-16, won by Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks, to trying to find his game as his team continues to cling to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It has been a bumpy road, but the 23-year-old defenceman says he is determined to get things back on track. Being scratched is frustrating, but Gostisbehere refuses to mope about his situation.
"Obviously no one wants to go through what I am going through now, but I feel you have to have a positive attitude and not feel sorry for yourself," Gostisbehere says. "You have to go out there and work your hardest and work your way out of the situation."
After starting last season in the American Hockey League with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Gostisbehere took advantage of a call-up by the Flyers to become one of their most productive players, scoring 17 goals (five game-winners) and 46 points and was plus-eight.
His spectacular year earned him a spot on the blue-line with Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey, where he tied for the team lead in scoring with four points — all assists. The team was made up of players from Canada and the United States who were 23 or younger.
"It was a great experience," Gostisbehere says. "You never really had Canadians and Americans together like that before. It was fun to be there."
Unfortunately for Gostisbehere, it was also the highlight of his year to date. Gostisbehere is the first to admit things came a little easier than he expected in his rookie season.
"It definitely caught me by surprise," Gostisbehere said. "Nobody goes into their first few NHL games and expects to make such a splash. It was a great experience… a lot of fun."
The "fun," it seems, has temporarily left his game. While Gostisbehere's flashy offensive style caught teams by surprise last season, they are ready for him now. Shutting down Gostisbehere is on everybody's radar.
In 48 games Gostisbehere has four goals and 21 points and is minus-19; hence his seat in the press box. He has not scored a goal since Nov. 25 — a 27-game drought. On the smaller side at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Gostisbehere's bread and butter is his speed, agility and creativity with the puck. This season, however, he has become predictable. Frequent observers suggest he too often shoots when a pass would better serve the Flyers and passes when he has a clear shot at the net.
Gostisbehere has taken to staying on the ice after practice and working at his game. Also, during games he has been paying special attention to teammates Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald — both left-shooting right defencemen, like himself.
"I know it's not an overnight thing," Gostisbehere said about raising the level of his play. "I'm just focusing more on myself and what I can do to help my team; whether its defending well and playing great defence or contributing on offence.