Kevin Hayes has been a conspicuous figure since he signed with the Flyers on June 18, 2019. His arrival and contract were met with skepticism as that $50 million price tag that accompanied him to Philadelphia was a massive pill to swallow. Though it didn’t take long for the new guy to prove the doubters and critics wrong.
Hayes’ offensive prowess didn’t shine through right away. He only produced a single goal during the team’s first six games. He followed that with a 12-game goalless drought that carried him through the month of November. Yet that wasn’t the side of Hayes that took the spotlight. His lively personality and catchphrases made him an immediate fan favorite and while the points weren’t rolling in, his two-way defensive ability and strong work on the penalty kill raised a few eyebrows.
His work ethic and off-ice humor won the hearts of fans during his first season, but he has largely failed to replicate that same success during his second season.
While it feels like he’s underperforming, his numbers tell a different story. Hayes finished the season fifth on the team in goals and seventh in points with 12 and 31 respectively. His underlying metrics have been fine as well. He leads the team in on-ice expected goal differential with 4 even. He also leads the team in expected goals per 60 with 2.65 and is fourth in expected goals against per 60 with 2.13. All while being second among forwards in Average TOI with a whopping 18:16.
Kevin Hayes plays a massive role on the team. He’s tasked with time on both the powerplay and penalty kill as well as holding down his regular role on the team’s second line. He is playing the second hardest minutes among forwards behind Sean Couturier, basically eating whatever Couturier can’t.
Hayes may not be the electric borderline-superstar that he was last season, but looking back on his career, this seems to be closer to what to expect with Hayes. He’s always been a good-but-not-quite-great player. The production is there, the underlying numbers are there, but the boneheaded plays and lackluster passing has overshadowed an otherwise decent season. He’s a player that you’re going to have to accept the good with the bad and just hope the scales tip further in the “good” direction, which just hasn’t happened much this year.
If the Flyers make some changes to the forward group this year, especially to the top six wingers or a legitimate third line center, Hayes could be a beneficiary of improved linemates that could force an uptick in his offensive production or reduced minutes and maybe buoys his overall game.
It’s been a rough season for the Flyers as a whole and unfortunately Hayes is not immune to the disfunction. For the role he plays, though, it’s hard to chalk this season up as a serious negative. For Hayes’ sake, let’s hope he can clean his game up next season. After all, he’s still got five years left on the contract that pays him $7.14 million a season, so the judging eyes aren’t going to blink any time soon.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com