How Kevin Hayes Impacted the Flyers

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Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

If we turned the calendar back to the summer of 2019, we would be seeing a lot of harsh comments about Kevin Hayes on social media. After all, he did receive a huge payday from the Philadelphia Flyers when he signed a 7-year, $50 million contract and never appeared to produce enough to be worth that kind of money. However, statistics can often be misleading when evaluating a players’ impact and role on a team.

Ever since the contract was signed, there have been a lot of reasons to love the deal, and we’re going to take a look at them.

The criticism at the time was fair, but Flyers fans knew that bringing in someone like Hayes was a necessary move, and that overpaying was just a part of inking UFA’s.

Personally, I thought the signing was an over-payment, but I understood that he would have gotten that money elsewhere and the Flyers desperately needed to fill that second line center role. They tried Nolan Patrick at that spot for a year and it didn’t work out, Fletcher took action.

Penalty Killing

Over the summer, I tried gathering as much information as possible about Hayes, watching videos of him playing, looking at stats, articles, you name it. One thing I didn’t know about him was how good he was on the penalty kill.

Backtracking to Hayes’ rookie season in 2014-15, he is tied for fifth in the NHL in shorthanded points with 17. Granted, not everything is about point totals on the penalty kill, but he is excellent at cutting off passing lanes and anticipating how the play will develop. He did it several times with the Flyers this year, scoring four shorthanded goals in the process.

Before Hayes’ arrival, the Flyers PK was absolutely abysmal. You can ask any fan, it was a complete joke and never came up in key situations, it was hard to watch. This season, they rank 11th in the NHL and look hungry all the time. It used to be a passive PK unit, but now, they have a much more aggressive approach and have saved the Flyers on multiple occasions. A lot of credit can also go to the experienced coaching staff brought in by Fletcher, but Hayes has played a huge part in it as well.

Role

As I mentioned earlier, the Flyers tried Patrick as the second line center the year before, but it never really worked out. The match ups were too difficult for the sophomore and his production didn’t increase. This is why acquiring Hayes was crucial.

Had everyone been healthy, the Flyers trio up the middle would have been Couturier – Hayes – Patrick, pretty good if you ask me. However, not everything works out the way we expect. Patrick hasn’t played a shift with the Flyers this season due to a migraine disorder, which once again emphasizes why the signing was important.

Had Fletcher not dished out that contract, the Flyers would have no depth up the middle and it would have forced Giroux back to center. A lot of this is often overlooked by some fans. People immediately assume that contracts are handed out solely based on production, but that isn’t true. Is it a factor? Yes. Does it tell the whole story? No.

This is the case we have with Hayes. A contract that looks like an anchor, but has actually been excellent when you look at all aspects of his game.

2020-04-14 11_14_20-HV

2020-04-14 11_14_37-Hayes PHI 1920 5v5 Shot Locations (Against)
Credit: Hockeyviz.com

Look at players like Matt Duchene or Jeff Skinner. Both of them are making more than Hayes ($8 million and $9 million respectively) and haven’t made the same impact as him at both ends of the ice this season.

In my opinion, his offensive production has been fair. He was up to 23 goals and 18 assists in 69 games and to be completely honest, he could have 30 goals already, he has had so many chances. He was criticized heavily for not using his frame and people said his skating wasn’t good, but for 6-foot-5 guy, he can really move. His skating is deceptive and he can create a lot of separation with the defender when he takes off, just look at his shorthanded goals.

Off Ice

As someone who regularly listens to the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, I already knew that Hayes was hilarious and his personality is definitely a breath of fresh air within the organization. The players have said good things about him and there have been numerous clips of him being a little goofy on and off the ice.

These players are important and as fans, we don’t really see much behind the scenes, but his presence certainly has been noticed.

Did you know he used to ref?

 

 

Brandon Murphy

@2murphy8

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