Kevin Hayes was one of several key Flyers players that took a step back this season.
He scored 23 goals and posted 41 points in 69 games in his first season in Philadelphia and was counted on to be a strong presence in the top-six this season. However, Hayes was dropped to the third line at times and was even a healthy scratch for Jackson Cates late in the season.
Hayes 31 points (12 goals) in 55 games this season. Hayes had several stretches where he didn’t look like himself, including a 14-game April in which he recorded just three assists.
It was revealed after the season that Hayes will undergo a minor surgery for a core muscle injury. That explains some of his struggles, but it was still a very disappointing season for Hayes. For someone making over $7 million per year, Hayes has to be better in all situations.
Hayes touched on a variety of subjects in his exit interview, including his and the team’s struggles, his confidence in Carter Hart, and more.
Kevin Hayes Exit Interview
Were you injured this year? And are you going to need some kind of surgery? Or was that a false read?
Yeah, it’s gonna be a minor surgery and something that we’ll fix and we’ll be fine.
How much did the injury prevent you from playing as well as you did last year?
It’s easy to say that the injury was the reason, but no, I just think it was kind of a mix of everything, type of season the team had, the type of season the league had and a bunch of different factors. 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 to go, obviously. And I kinda want to be a guy that’s relied on every single night and a guy that plays the right way, 200 foot game. This year, I can’t honestly say that that was the case. So yeah, it’s just kind of going to get away from the rink for a little bit and then come back after I feel better. Get back to work and start working towards next season.
How difficult was it this year, to not have as much practice time to get in sync when things were going wrong?
It’s easier to tune up your game when you can practice as a team a lot more than we did this year. That was definitely a challenge for our team. The whole league went through it, so we can’t really use that as an excuse. That’s when you get better. That’s when you build chemistry. That’s when you work on your systems and become a better team. I feel like this year, it was tough without it. Next year, it’ll be a normal season, and we’ll get back to it.
Did the frustration level of this season and obviously not meeting expectations, did that impact kind of tenor in the locker room for you guys this year?
Yes and no. Like anything in life when things aren’t going your way for an extended period of time, it’s tough to be happy about what’s going on. I think guys are frustrated with how the season went. No one was really grumpy or anything, but outside of the actual hockey game, this is a tight group. Everyone loves each other. We have an awesome time with each other. I don’t think that got away from us.
Much has been made by us and people on the outside about the loss of Matt Niskanen. To you guys inside the dressing room, how much was that loss? Was that a big loss? Did you guys really miss his presence on and off the ice?
It’s easy to say that when a big part of your team is you have a great season with them and then all of a sudden he leaves and you don’t have a great season. It’s easy to say that. Nisky was an awesome guy, an awesome player. He definitely played the game in a way that we missed a little bit this year. I think we have the right group here. It was obviously a tough year. Matt Niskanen helps any team obviously. I don’t think you can say that we had a bad year because he wasn’t here. I wish he was. Obviously, he’s a great guy.
Do you have any concern that the adversity Carter Hart dealt with this year is going to set him back? Or do you think when you show up for training camp next year, he’s going to be the guy that we saw last season?
Yeah, I don’t want to speak for Carter, but I’m sure he’s not happy about how it went this year. From getting to know him, seeing his work ethic and how he goes about his professional game, I think he’ll be one of the best goalies in the league next year. He’s a player that myself, this team and this organization is really relying on. I think everyone has a ton of confidence in him and knows how hard he works. I think he’ll get away from the rink, reset and figure out his best way to go about getting back to where he was.
Transcript via Philadelphia Flyers