Thursday, March 05, 2015

Murray, Hextall differ on whether Gostisbehere is done until next season

For everyone wondering how Shayne Gostisbehere was progressing from his ACL injury, we thought we had our answer -- which was straight from Allentown that he's not coming back until next season. 

On Thursday night, the Phantoms announced the 2014 national champion and rookie blueliner would not see the ice for the remainder of the season as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

But wait ... following the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Blues in Philadelphia, there came a different angle.

"There's a process going on here and we're not through it yet," said Philly GM Ron Hextall. "Shayne will see our doctor down here in about two weeks. Something will come out of that. Has there been talk of shutting him down for the year? Yes, there has. But a final decision hasn't been made."

Gostisbehere was knocked out of the lineup when trying to escape a check in early November in a 3-2 win at Manchester (Los Angeles' affiliate), suffering that ACL injury to his left knee, which usually takes in the neighborhood of 4-to-6 months to fully heal in occurrences by football or basketball players.

While it wasn't an optimal first professional season for Gostisbehere, we can at least say, for the first time in a long time, that the Philadelphia Flyers are aggressively guarding their future.

It appeared the damage wasn't commensurate with the total tears and reconstructions needed in other tears suffered by athletes, and following surgery he was expected to be fully healed in four months. The Florida native was back skating just after the turn of the new year.

Though several Phantoms sources reported that Gostisbehere was somewhat close to returning as the four-month deadline approached, Murray officially shut the door earlier in the evening, saying, per Gary Blockus of the Allentown Morning Call: "He will not be playing a game. We’re shutting him down."

Riding high off plenty of national exposure in his junior season at Union which culminated in a 7-4 victory over Minnesota in the Frozen Four final in Philly last April, Gostisbehere turned heads in training camp, seeing action in several preseason games and ending up in Orange and Black for two games in late October due to Flyers' defensive injuries.

He was a catalyst at Lehigh Valley as well, totaling five assists in his five games in the AHL before getting hurt.

“It is better for my long-term future and gives me a chance to get completely healthy and stronger and ready for next year," said Gostisbehere. 

The Phantoms are gasping for air below the surface of the Eastern Conference playoff chase. With two games at home this weekend before a five-game road trip, the club ranks 12th with 57 points, now trailing eighth-place Providence by nine points. Murray's team has limped to a 1-2-2 record in the last two weeks and has used up all the games in hand since the season's midway point.

There's no reason to push Gostisbehere back in vain hopes his addition to a shaky and undisciplined lineup will provide some kind of spark. A fresh start stacked only with the expectations of being totally healthy is the best option moving forward.

Pressed for a reason why Murray might have gone so far out on a limb, Hextall replied: "I have no idea. I haven't talked to Murph. We're gonna talk and straighten it out. I will tell you, now that it's out there that we've talked about it ... but until we get all the information ... we'll make that decision. Is there a chance he will be (able to return)? Yes." 

Medical professionals often indicate how a knee which has undergone a meniscus procedure often isn't 100 percent back to normal, and despite rigorous rehabilitation, a knee whose ACL has been repaired or reconstructed faces similar odds. Gostisbehere at least has youth, and therefore time, on his side.

"No, there has not been a setback. I'd probably be making stuff up if I gave you details, but I know it's an injury that ... there's new information coming out about it every year, and there's situations we're leery of putting him in at this point," Hextall added.

One wonders what the tone of the conversation between Murray and his boss will be, with such a sensitive subject regarding a high-end player having been leaked before the evaluation process has been completed.

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