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Carchidi: Benching of Flyers’ Kevin Hayes Makes Little Sense

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Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers

Maybe Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella is in the Bomb for Bedard brigade.

Maybe that explains why he benched Kevin Hayes, his leading scorer, for Saturday’s home game against the sizzling New York Rangers.

With Hayes, the Flyers are still a bad team. Injuries have crippled them, and they just don’t have enough scorers to match most opponents.

Without him, they are worse. Much worse.

On Thursday, Tortorella sent Hayes a message by benching him in the final period of a 1-1 game in New Jersey.

Poor play

Torts wasn’t happy with Hayes’ play. Heck, Hayes probably wasn’t happy with his play, either, especially a turnover late in the second period that led to an odd-man rush for the New Jersey Devils.

So Hayes, 30, had a couple days to think about his poor performance.  He probably thought he’d get a chance to redeem himself Saturday night against the New York Rangers.

Only he wasn’t on the ice in that game. He was a healthy scratch as Tortorella tried to magnify his message.

From here, it was an unnecessary move.

Hayes is a veteran. He was benched earlier this season in the third period and, since then, has arguably been the Flyers’ best offensive player.

Yes, there have been some defensive lapses here and there. Like many other forwards on this team. Emphasis on many.

But when you have a team as offensively inept as the Philadelphia Flyers, you need Hayes in the lineup.

OK, if you think you had to send Message No. 2 on Thursday against New Jersey, fine.

But to send another message to a nine-year pro, hoping will change some of his defensive habits?

That’s just totally misguided. Overkill.

Fans were divided on the benching. In the first eight hours of a poll I ran on Twitter, 51% disagreed with the decision, and 49% were in favor of it.

Flyers Ginger Ambassador said it was the right move “just because everyone in the present and future knows when you play for him, you have to do what he’s asking.”

He predicted Hayes would respond with a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s home game vs. Columbus.

Joseph Nassib gave a different view, noting the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin gave up the puck on Saturday against the Flyers. “Does he get benched? Enough already. I like Torts, but he seems to be on a power trip,” he said.

Competitive loss

The Flyers, minus Hayes, battled hard Saturday but dropped a closer-than-it-looks 6-3 decision to the Rangers.

Maybe Torts is trying to send a message to the other players, telling them: You play my way, with my structure, or you will sit.

But he already sent that message to Hayes. Twice.

Maybe he’s trying to get Hayes to ask for a trade because he doesn’t think he’s his kind of player?

If so, benching him a third time is not the way to increase his value.

You get the feeling the Flyers are going to put several veterans on the trade block, and the sizzling James van Riemsdyk and Hayes could help them get quality draft picks in a deep 2023 draft. (Hayes, who has a $7.1 million annual cap hit through 2025-26, has a modified no-trade clause. Reportedly, there are 12 teams he cannot be traded to.)

If Tortorella doesn’t want Hayes on the team, he should tell GM Chuck Fletcher, keep him in the lineup, let him bulk up his stats (29 points in 31 games), and then send him packing.

But Torts is going about it the wrong way.

And he won’t even explain to the media why he benched Hayes, other than to say: “I’ve got to look at the big picture of what this team is going to be, what the standard is, of how we have to play. That far outweighs losing some offense in a particular game.”

Hayes declined commenting on his latest benching. He took the high road after an October benching, saying he he respected “everything thing that Torts brings to this room. I respect all of his ideas and all of his coaching stuff.”

Back then, he added a kicker: “I don’t think I’ll ever agree with a coach who benches me.”

Especially a third time.

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