The 2022-23 season was a rollercoaster for Kevin Hayes. Following the tragic death of his brother, Jimmy, in August of last year, Hayes seemed to want to come into this season strong in his brother’s memory. Unfortunately, a series of abdominal injuries, surgeries, and a blood infection kept him from suiting up until mid-November and then, after just two games back, again until December.
Hayes ultimately missed about half the season—although by the time he got back on the ice the season was already looking pretty bleak. The Flyers were 8-10-4 and in the middle of their first 10-game losing streak of the season. And, as it turns out, Hayes was not the returning savior that the Flyers needed to pull themselves out of it. He then missed all of February, returning for the rest of the season—a rest of the season in which the Flyers went 9-18-1. The Flyers essentially swapped in a healthy Kevin Hayes for an injured Sean Couturier. In fact, they only played 11 games the entire season with their top two centers in the lineup at the same time. They went 5-5-1 in those games.
Altogether, Hayes had 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points in 48 games. While there were bursts of good play here and there, especially in his three (!) returns to play, Hayes ultimately ended up pretty outdone in the shot, shot attempts, goals, and expected goals columns. With Hayes on the ice at 5-on-5, the Flyers were outshot 308 to 392, out-attempted 551 to 699, and outscored 30 to 40. The team’s expected goals were 27.74 to 31.43.
This resulted in a 44.08% Corsi-For, 44% shot percentage, 42.86% goals for, and 44.05% expected goals for. The only regulars with worse percentages than that were the bottom of the lineup players—Nick Seeler, Zack MacEwen, Max Willman, and Patrick Brown.
The Flyers were bad in 2021-22. This is not news to anyone. They were not much better or worse with Kevin Hayes in the lineup, and Hayes himself was not much better or worse than his first two seasons with Philadelphia.
But listen: I’ve literally left jobs in times of deep grief. Those jobs weren’t televised or as well-incentivized as an NHL player, but still, they were nearly impossible just to show up to. And I’ve never lost someone as close to me as I’m sure that Kevin was to Jimmy. I’ve got two brothers and—while they’re incredibly different in personality and temperament from each other and from me—they understand me in a way that no one else in the world does or ever even could.
Recovering from major surgery and suiting up for work, just getting on the ice, all while grieving that kind of loss is a moral victory in itself.
Hayes’ perseverance was rewarded with a nomination for the Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who most exemplifies the qualities or sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. A disproportionate reward for such a great loss—certainly not worth it. But well-deserved nonetheless.
Hayes is now one of the leaders of this team. He’s one of the more vocal guys and he’s—believe it or not—the third oldest player on the team. Hopefully 2022-23 will be the season we all hoped that Hayes would have this year—a full slate of games (for the first time in his Flyers career), some penalty killing, some power play, a consistent scoring touch, and the intangibles along with it.