After acquiring his rights during the 2019 off-season, the Philadelphia Flyers signed forward Kevin Hayes to a seven-year, $50 million deal that seemed to pay off almost right away. He filled a major void in the top six forwards and clicked with the current roster right from the jump. Entering his second full season with the Flyers, Hayes was expected to be a key contributor to the team’s success down the stretch during the 2020-21 season. After starting off seemingly strong in the first couple of games, he never got things going down the stretch, which was a major problem for the team.
Much like Hayes, the Flyers started the season off strong, posting an 11-4-3 record, but quickly fizzled out after dealing with key injuries, battling a COVID-19 outbreak, and trying to solve major goaltending issues. While all of the above issues contributed to a lack of success for the team, the fact that key players did not produce points hurt even more. This past season was filled with struggles and adversity, but he always found a way to remain positive despite the frustrations. He was a clear leader in the locker room and provided a veteran presence on a roster full of young talent.
What Went Wrong for Hayes?
Being one of the key offensive weapons for the Flyers, Hayes is almost always expected to put up points in any given game. Over the course of his career with the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, and the Flyers, he has never been known as a player to put up 100 points in a given season, but he is always at least good for 50-60 points per year. Over the course of his 7-year career in the National Hockey League, he has played 505 games and 301 points (127G,174A). In looking at his past seasons, this past season was not out of the ordinary.
During the 2020-21 season, Hayes played 55 games for the orange and black, where he put up 31 total points (12G,19A), nine of which came on the power play. The expectation that he was going to put up more than 50 points in a shortened season was a bit unrealistic considering his past numbers, but that is part of being an athlete in the city of Philadelphia. While his numbers this season did not look as good as some fans would have expected, he still found a way to be consistent in a tough season.
It would be tough to say that Hayes did not feel the pressure from the fans and media this past season as he felt he did not do enough for the team. As the season came to an end, it was easy to tell how frustrated he was with his play, but it felt like there was more to the problem of a lack of offensive production. In speaking with the media at the end of the season, a full picture started to come into view as to what went wrong.
“I just think it was kind of a mix of everything, the type of season the team had, the type of season the league had, a bunch of different factors,” said Hayes during the end-of-season press conference. “I felt like my first year in Philly was amazing, it was a great start to my career here, and this year was kind of a little hiccup, not the way I wanted it to go obviously. I want to be a guy that’s relied on every single night and a guy that plays the right way, a 200-foot game. This year, I can’t honestly say that that was the case. I’m kind of going to get away from the rink for a little bit and then get back after I feel better. Get back to work and start working toward next season.”
Playing a Season Injured
As it was mentioned a few weeks ago, Hayes played a large portion of the season with an undisclosed injury. While he did not want to blame his lack of success on playing injured this past season, it was clear that the injury affected his play. There were moments this season where he just did not look like himself on the ice, and it was clearly frustrating.
Over the last week, it was revealed that he underwent a successful core muscle surgery that would sideline him for a minimum of five weeks. While this was not a major surgery, the sustained injury is a tough one to play through, especially as a big forward. He is expected to make a full recovery in time to start training camp in September. During that time off, he hopes to be able to get away from the game for a bit to get things straight for next season.
Looking Forward to the 2021-22 Season
Looking ahead to the 2021-22 season, Hayes will play a pivotal role in the success of the Flyers’ offense, but also contribute to the team’s defensive effort. After having the opportunity to take a full off-season to rest and recover, he will look to get back into his 2019-20 form. A season where he finished with 41 points (23G,18A) in 69 games played. As mentioned above, Hayes is not and has never been a guy to put up huge numbers. While he is fully capable of putting the puck in the net, he is more of a defensive forward. He set goals for himself to be a better player and teammate next season
The Flyers will continue to use Hayes to his fullest potential as a big-bodied, tough-to-play against forward. He needs to put this past season behind him and look forward to the next season, which will be a tough one. The Flyers team might look a little bit different after this off-season, so we will have to wait and see what happens before making predictions. Regardless of what happened last season, the team needs to make a jump and push harder for success moving forward.
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Bobby Bader is a freelance journalist from Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL) as the team’s media coordinator as the team prepares for its inaugural season. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.