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Dave Hakstol defends decision to scratch Shayne Gostisbehere, play Andrew MacDonald

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It came during a town hall meeting with season-ticket holders on Tuesday evening.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers invited season-ticket holders in for an annual “Town Hall Meeting,” in which they had the chance to ask questions of various folks in the organization.

Among them were head coach Dave Hakstol. As you might imagine given the current arguments we’re currently having as a fan base -- whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments on this website, at the bar, or at the Wawa — a lot of questions focused on the state of the team’s defense.

In particular, questions focused on Shayne Gostisbehere, the second-year star who has become a regular healthy scratch this month, and Andrew MacDonald, who many believe to be one of the worst regular defensemen in the NHL, but has not sat out regularly.

It’s safe to say that Hakstol has a different perspective than much of the fan base, saying that MacDonald has played a top-four role all season and that he’s earned it since training camp. He also says that Ghost has a lot to learn on the defensive side of the puck.

We’re not going to argue against Hakstol in this blog post. (We’ve been doing enough of that lately.) Instead, we’ll present his back-and-forth on the subject with a fan during one of several Q&A group sessions held during the evening.

We have a transcription, and you can also see video below. Notice the tension between the fan asking the question and Hakstol. It is not warm and fuzzy.

Dave Hakstol defends decision to scratch Ghost, play MacDonald

At last night's Flyers Town Hall, there was definitely some tension as Dave Hakstol answered a fan's question about Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald.

Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on 8hb Februari 2017

It’s obvious on social media that overall people are not that happy with [Andrew] MacDonald’s play. And you have Shayne sitting out and a lot of us are having a hard time swallowing why [AMac] has never sit out and you have Shayne sitting out so many times. Can you answer some of that?

Short memory: Mac was in the American Hockey League last year. Is that — what’s tougher, sitting out a couple games? And I’m not comparing the two, but I don’t think there is a comparison to be made. Mac has played extremely well this year. He’s played like a legitimate top 3-4 role all year, he’s earned that from Day 1 of camp, he is an efficient player.

I don’t care what social media says. I watch it, I study it. I know exactly what he does. He’s done a good job. Him and Ghost are different players, no question. They have different roles, so I won’t even compare the two in that regard.

Ghost is out of the lineup for good reasons.

Like?

I’m not gonna get into individual things here. The young man has so much good ability, so much good ability. To become a well-rounded player is very difficult in this league. It’s easy to brush over some of the difficult areas of the game that sometimes are performed real efficiently — and Ghost is not. Ghost can be a very good two-way defenseman with some outstanding offensive ability. It’s a tough transition to this league, especially offensively. This year, things haven’t come quite as easily offensively. I think that’s apparent for everybody.

But also, for him to shore up some of the areas of the game that are going to make him an outstanding defenseman in this league for years to come — not just today, but for years to come — and to be what the Philadelphia Flyers need as we become a top contending team, these are very important growth steps that he’s taking right now.

Everybody just looks at just coming out of the lineup for a game or two. To be honest with you, he’s been out of the lineup now and has had an opportunity for four or five days to have some great work days. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of it that way. For a young player to have practice time in this league, for which there is none -- it’s really tough for veteran players to hold their confidence, to keep their sharpness, to be where they need to be day-in and day-out without practice time.

It’s really difficult for a young player to be able to do that when you’re out of the lineup for maybe one game, you don’t make a ton of progress. That’s more of a wake-up call. But right now I can tell you this, Ghost has had three or four great work days. He’ll be back in our lineup soon.

Tomorrow?

Well, we don’t play tomorrow but —

Thursday, Thursday.

He’ll be back in soon, I don’t know if it’ll be Thursday or not yet. We’ll decide that over the next day or two. But he’s been a huge part of what we’ve done. He’s going to be an even bigger part of what we do in the future. But there’s steps that he needs to take as a young player to grow.

Ghost was phenomenal last year. Now that the league has found out the way that he plays, how are we gonna change that?

You never get a shot at being unknown again and that’s part of being an efficient veteran player in this league. We’re not going to change who he is. Number one, we’re asking him to shore up some of the things — without getting specifically — in his play without the puck, which is most important for a defenseman. Number one, you have to defend, you have to move the puck out of your zone, and then everybody else brings something differently. Ghost brings the offensive side of the game.

First two things have to be there, solid and sound and be the foundation of any defenseman’s game. So on the offensive side he’s not gonna change who he is, he’s just gonna continue to learn, grow, develop and have the poise and confidence to read the play that’s in front of him and take what is there. And he does a good job of it. He’s been up and down a bit. He’s had some nights where he’s been excellent, other nights where it hasn’t come easily. That’s part of it. There’s no hidden secrets in this game. Everybody studies their opposition so closely that — you know, individual PKers on the other side, they know the tendencies of what the power play is gonna do and the individuals. So you’re never gonna get away from that. It’s part of maturity, it’s part of growing, it’s part of handling those challenges.

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