On the one hand, Hayes has had a bounce back season. He’s playing better, statistically, than he has in years. His 54 points are just one away from a career high set in 2018-19; the year before he became a Flyer. His 36 assists are a career high and his 18 goals are the most he’s posted since his first year in Orange and Black. he also earned his first All-Star nod.
However, that’s where things get murky. After getting benched in December, he went on a tear. In January, he scored six goals with nine assists. This also included getting a hat trick against Anaheim. Then he attended the All-Star game in Florida.
After that, he kind of disappeared. Maybe he was worried about getting traded. Maybe anxiety set in. He’s scored just thrice since the All-Star game….and two of those goals came in the second and third games following the break. His goal against the Dallas Stars on April 6 was the first goal in about two months. He also has just five assists since then as well. That’s not All-Star production.
As his production dropped, so has his role on the team. He’s been moved from the top line to the second line to the third. He started the season playing roughly 20 minutes a night, give or take. Lately, he’s been getting 16 minutes or less.
He’s not getting as much ice time. He’s not getting opportunities to score. He’s not producing. And in an interview with the Athletic, he said the following:
"“Yeah, I mean, my role has tremendously changed. They’re building for the future. You can see who’s part of it and who isn’t…. My role has been diminishing for months here. I’ve accepted it.”"
So, he is accepting he isn’t part of the future of this team. Ok, but here’s why that is a problem. When he was benched by Tortorella, he said he didn’t agree with it. At the same time, both he and the coach said there were no issues. You can see this in how his level of play picked up right afterwards.
But now he is playing a kind of mopey style, like he doesn’t give a crap. Maybe he doesn’t. But that is bad for his teammates. Hayes is expected to be a role model for the younger guys and a great teammate to the vets. By not producing and putting his all into the game, he is being neither.
Likewise, if he wants off the team, it’s going to be hard to move an overpriced forward who doesn’t play like he wants to. Who wants that? Who wants to take a guy who won’t perform and is overpriced (See JVR)?
His on the ice actions will hamper what Daniel Briere can get for him. The Flyers could buy out his contract, but that would also affect them financially, for years to come as well. And even then, who would want to pay him what he thinks he deserves?
Hayes is not helping his cause any by not playing well. His attitude is making waves on the team and is becoming well known around the league. Likewise, if he wants to prove that Tortorella and Co. are wrong, he needs to stop pouting and put on his big boy pants and let his effort and stats prove them wrong. He can be a great mentor to the younger players by showing how you overcome adversity and the “noise” that attaches itself to players and teams.
And if he truly wants off, he could play in a way that makes himself attractive to other teams. He could show he can be a part of something that they will want to have. And he isn’t doing that either. He’s aging and producing less. Not a lot of teams want to pick up the tab for someone like that. A player who is stuck in his ways and is uncoachable is not a guy many teams want in their locker room.
It’s a shame it is ending this way. At the beginning of the season, I honestly felt that he and Torts would hit it off and he would be one of Tortorella’s go to guys on this team. It hasn’t happened. And at this point, it looks as if it will be hard to repair this fractured relationship between the team and him.