“If you ask Kevin, it’s probably been a hard year for him,” Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella said Tuesday morning as the Philadelphia Flyers prepared to host the Los Angeles Kings tonight.
He was referring to Kevin Hayes, whose year has been made more difficult because of, well, Tortorella.
The coach, unhappy with Hayes’ defense, moved him from his long-time position — center — to left wing.
He also benched him twice because he didn’t like his level of play. And he’s given him fewer minutes as a third-line player.
“I think he’s handled himself well,” Tortorella said.
Through all the changes, there is no animosity between the coach and player, both agreed, though Hayes made it clear he is more comfortable at center but will do whatever his coach asks.
“Kevin and I have talked right on through this,” Tortorella said. “There’s never been a confrontation. There’s been honesty, and I appreciate that from Kevin. He’s been honest with me, too.”
Said Hayes: “I’m playing wing, and that doesn’t mean I have bad blood with him. I’ve been in the league long enough where if I have a problem, I can ask him about it. He explains himself.”
Hayes says his three-year-old nephew, Beau, points to the heavens all the time for his late dad. That’s why Hayes does it when he scores, saluting his brother. Beau, who sleeps in his hockey pants, is going to ASG with Uncle Kevin. #Flyers
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 24, 2023
Hayes, 30, is having a career season. He has 15 goals and 43 points in 47 games, and is headed to his first All-Star Game.
“It’s crazy. You’re having a career year, but you’re not playing the position you always play,” said Hayes, mindful he is getting more favorable matchups because he frequently opposes a team’s third line.
“He’s trying to do the things we’re asking him to do, without taking away his offense,” Tortorella said, adding that Hayes has made strides on the power play, taking more shots and being less deliberate recently.
Flyers will use Carter Hart in the nets against the Kings. … Philly scored a 4-2 win in Los Angeles on Dec. 31. Noah Cates snapped a 2-2 tie by scoring a shorthanded goal with 6:59 left. … Tortorella likes the way Rasmus Ristolainen has played the last few weeks. He raved about Tony DeAngelo’s offense, but said he “still needs work on defending. He’s trying. And we continue to work with him. I don’t want to turn him into a defensive defensemen, and I never will. But we’re trying to work (with) him to get him to understand as far as closing people out.” … DeAngelo leads Flyers defensemen in goals (7) and points (28), but he is last on the team with a minus-15 rating.