Who should win the Barry Ashbee Trophy?

Our look at the Flyers’ annual awards begins with the question of who has been their best defenseman this season.

Prior to Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers will give out their yearly end-of-season awards. These prizes are voted on by various people and groups (with the exception of the Toyota Cup, awarded to the player who earns the most recognition in game-end “Three Star” selections), and they’re a way to reward guys on the team that have had good seasons.

As we do every year here at BSH, we, too, will give you our two cents as to who should win each award that will be given out on Thursday. We’ll go through two of them today, and the remaining three will come tomorrow; for each award, our writers will give their winner and some explanations, to varying degrees and lengths.

First up: the Barry Ashbee Trophy, which goes to the best defenseman on the team. In real life, this award is voted on by the media that covers the team. [Note that responses were largely collected during the day on Tuesday, meaning that any statistics mentioned in this piece are through Monday’s NHL action.]

Brad: This really wasn’t that difficult for me. It’s Shayne Gostisbehere. He’s scoring at a better pace than his ridiculous rookie season, his play in the defensive zone has improved, and he’s a legitimate Norris candidate. Among Flyers defensemen only Travis Sanheim has better Corsi and xG numbers.

Kurt: There are two remotely acceptable answers here, and I can hear a case for either one of them, but I kind of think you have to go with Shayne Gostisbehere. Has any defenseman ever collected 60 points in a season to as little fanfare as he has? And yet even despite that level of production, he’s slowly shaking the “offensive defenseman” label for the “two-way defenseman” label, as his play in his own end of the ice is as good as it’s ever been. There’s an argument here for Ivan Provorov, who’s handled an immense amount of responsibility and performed well, but Ghost gets the edge in my book.

Jake: I think it’s fair to assume this is a two-horse race here, as the Flyers’ defense corps after Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov hasn’t done much to deserve praise. I think either of the defensemen that comprise the top unit are deserving of this award. Provorov has taken great strides this year towards reaching his potential as a franchise #1 defenseman. He plays over 24 minutes a night in all situations and is among the league leaders in goal scoring among defensemen in just his 2nd year in the NHL. It would be easy to award him the Ashbee Trophy for the 2nd straight season. However, as impressive as the young Russian blue-liner has been in his sophomore campaign, I have to give the edge to his defense partner. Shayne Gostisbehere has had a phenomenal season. He bests Provorov in points per 60 minutes, adjusted CF%, CF% Rel, xGF%, xGF% Rel, GF% and GF% Rel at 5v5. Statistics aside, his stick work, defensive zone coverage and board work have grown leaps and bounds over the course of the season. He has developed into a very good player in the defensive zone, good enough to earn the trust of his head coach as a top pair defenseman for the majority of the season.

Both have shown great growth this year, but I have been most impressed by the development of Gostisbehere into a legitimate top-pair defenseman.

Kelly: Ivan Provorov. This one was tough, as clearly Shayne Gostisbehere also makes a strong case, but even with all of those points and his amazing play, I don’t think you can overlook the steady reliability of Ivan Provorov, who only recently became old enough to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Jason: Shayne Gostisbehere: I mean, could it be anyone else at this point? He’s 4th in points among ALL NHL defensemen and only 6 points behind the league-leader. He’s been an elite play-driver on the team and has become very good defensively to boot. I love Ivan Provorov, but Ghost has been the Flyers #1 defenseman this season.

Kyle: Travis Sanheim for putting up with Hakstol’s nonsense. I’m only half-joking with that to be quite honest. In all seriousness though, Shayne Gostisbehere is my pick. Ghost bounced back in a huge way, becoming only the fourth Flyers defenseman ever to reach 60 points in a single season. Not only has he been stellar offensively, he’s improved tremendously in the defensive zone as well. Ever since being paired with Ivan Provorov (who also deserves votes for this), the duo have been so fun to watch night in and night out.

Steph: Shayne Gostisbehere. The only debate here is if it should be Ivan Provorov (21 years old, in his second season in the NHL, has been a 1D for most of his professional career) or Shayne Gostisbehere (24 years old, third season in the NHL), and I’ve landed very firmly on the Ghost side. Yes Provorov is great, there is no denying that, but the way that Gostisbehere has found a new level to his game this year has been unbelievable. Literally, I didn’t think this was possible. I thought his rookie year was going to be the best year of his career, and he has proven me wrong. We could now be looking at a top pairing of two 1D caliber defensemen and holy hell that’s cool.

Mike: Really hard not to go with “Hits leader Robert Hagg” Robert Hagg here. Just kidding, just love to type and hear that phrase. Both Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov have far outplayed the Swedish bowling ball and every other Flyers defenseman by a wide margin this season. For me it comes down to the value Shayne Gostisbehere brings in the distribution department in helping create one of the NHL’s most dangerous power play units and combining it this season with top pair minutes against tough competition. While Provorov was doing it last year, which is impressive as well, Gostisbehere has taken his game to new heights and is now trending towards a top pair defenseman and not just a power play specialist who needs sheltered minutes.

Bill: In the past, if this award was perceived as a close race, it was because fans were trying to come up with a reason to give any of the team’s defensemen an award. Who can forget the 2014-15 season when many thought Nick Schultz was worthy of the recognition before the Ashbee was ultimately awarded to Mark Streit?

This season, however, there are two legitimate contenders for the award in Shayne Gostisbehere, who took the award home in 2015-16, and Ivan Provorov, who is the reigning champion.

Gostisbehere has one hell of a case. Fourth on the team with 60 points, and fifth amongst all the league’s defensemen. Everyone knew Ghost could pile up points and his role as triggerman for Claude Giroux’s power play ensures he’ll always have that opportunity. But it is his improved defensive work that has really pulled his complete game into perspective. No longer just an offensive defenseman, the Union College product is now being counted on as a top-pair blue-liner, paired alongside Ivan Provorov.

And therein lies Ghost’s roadblock. The 21-year-old from Yaroslav, Russia not only deserves recognition as Philadelphia’s best player on the back end, but his effort this year has him amongst the best at his position in all the NHL.

Without the luxury of top unit power play time, Provorov is third in goals by defensemen across the entire NHL, and his ten five-on-five goals trail only Victor Hedman. Provorov plays by far the most penalty kill minutes on the team, and his 24-plus minutes in all situations lead the Flyers blue liners by almost three minutes.

Ivan Provorov is a workhorse and he seems to be getting strong down the stretch. The Flyers are lucky to have an elite top pairing in Provorov and Gostisbehere and choosing between them is like choosing between… nope, I can’t come up with a good enough metaphor for Ghost and Provy. Their seasons speak for themselves and you can’t really go wrong with either, but I’m going with the guy the coach counts on more regularly.

Craig: Honestly, Provorov or Gostisbehere could win this award and I’d be fine with it. I made the case why Provorov should win it on last week’s Flyperbole, but now I’m leaning towards Shayne Gostisbehere (Covering My Bases). He’s got 60 points and has focused on improving his play in the defensive zone. He’s shifty moves at the blue line and ability to create offensive chances on standstill plays in the offensive zone don’t receive as much attention as they did his rookie season, but they’re still impressive and needed. Once perceived as an offensive defenseman with issues in his own zone that would definitely be in the top four, Gostisbehere is challenging Provorov as the number one. Again, Provorov is logging a lot of minutes as well and has 15 goals, but I think I have to give the nod to Gostisbehere here (what a beautiful dilemma to have).

Ben: Radko Gudas.

Maddie: Shayne Gostisbehere. Oh my god, please do not make me choose. This could just as easily be Provorov here. They are both so good. But I had to go with Ghost. Maybe it’s health, maybe it’s just continued growth or development, but whatever it is, he’s hit a whole new level this season and it’s been a real thrill to watch.

Steve: A lot of praise will deservedly go to Ivan Provorov. We all know that Provolone is the man. However, I am giving the Ashbee to the one and only Shayne Gostisbehere. Ghost had a phenomenal season in 2017-18, elevating both his offensive and defensive games to new heights. The noted French Bulldog lover paired with Ivan Provorov, making one of the best defensive duos in the league. Let this sink in: Gostisbehere has scored the most points by a Flyer since Jurassic Park was in theaters.

Joe: Shayne Gostisbehere.