All-Star Kevin Hayes has easily improved his game since benching

Kevin Hayes (Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)
Kevin Hayes (Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports) /

About a month ago, Kevin Hayes was benched. Humiliated. He was the top scorer for the Flyers and his coach had made him a healthy scratch. Hayes had expressed that he didn’t think it was the right call, but took it. Coach John Tortorella wouldn’t discuss it openly, hinting that he preferred to keep that stuff in-house and not air it publicly. There were many who thought that Hayes would demand a trade out of Philly or would be traded as the Flyers sell off assets at the trade deadline.

Fast forward just a few weeks later. Hayes was scratched on Dec. 17 against the New York Rangers. It’s been seven games since then. But Hayes has improved. In the last two games, he has five points including a goal against the Coyotes. He’s won 53% of his faceoffs, but that number improves to 64% in the last five games. He is a +5 in the last five games as well.

Coach Tortorella wanted to awaken the “sleeping center” within. Instead, the Flyers found a rising star within Noah Cates. Morgan Frost is playing well and Patrick Brown is healthy again. The Flyers are finally playing within their positions.  Maybe Hayes doesn’t have to be a center.

The best thing the Flyers did was bench Kevin Hayes

Hayes is now playing left wing on a line with Scott Laughton and Wade Allison. During that five-game stretch, Allison has one goal and Laughton has three goals with four assists. The Flyers’ third line is starting to come together as a scoring unit.

Despite being benched, Hayes still leads the team with 25 assists. He also has 10 goals, good for third on the team behind Travis Konecny and Owen Tippett. His 35 points are just five behind TK for the team lead.

Likewise, Hayes seems to be reborn. He is already ahead of his point totals for the last two seasons, has equaled his goals scored from last year, and is just two off his 2020-21 numbers. This is his best year since his first year when he scored 23 goals and assisted on 18.

I don’t know what Hayes’s future is. He maybe he here at the end of the season. He may be here next year. He may be moved at the trade deadline or in the offseason. Either way, he looks like a changed man. He looks like he has woken up and is playing smarter hockey. He’s not coughing up the puck as much. He’s generating more turnovers to jumpstart the offense.

Either way, Kevin Hayes is the All-Star representing the Flyers this year. This is his first trip to the game and he will make us proud.