2022-23 Player Review: Kevin Hayes had a great season for the most part
It was a good season for a guy almost certainly on the trade block.
It can be difficult to objectively evaluate Kevin Hayes' season without a few things clouding your judgement.
First and foremost, there's the contract. When the terms of his deal were revealed back when he signed before the 2019-20 season, the consensus on his contract was "not ideal by any stretch, but fine because the Flyers are genuinely pushing themselves to become a contender". In the end, after coming one game short of making the Eastern Conference Finals, criticism of the contract for a player who was a big reason for the Flyers' success fell to the background of team discourse.
Now, however, that 2019-20 season was the last time the Flyers made the playoffs, and the creeping shadows of a larger scale rebuild linger after new GM (probably) Daniel Briere's comments about this process potentially "taking a while".
Let's try to put all that aside, though. It would be entirely unfair to give Kevin Hayes a poor grade based on his contract situation (as bad as it may be for the Flyers' current situation and based on his statistical output, both advanced and production-wise). He may have a modified no-movement clause, eat up 8.7% of the Flyers cap space (he has the largest cap hit of the Flyers' forward group not on IR at the time of writing), and not produce as many points as you'd like for a forward taking up that much of your cap space. But, purely judging Hayes' on what expectations we had from him going into the season, he put up an above average season.
Hayes finished the season just one point shy of tying his career bests in goals and points (he actually did tie his career best in assists) all while playing on a purely sub-par Flyers team that struggled to score (their 222 goals-for ranked 29th of 32 teams in the NHL). He was only bested by Travis Konecny in terms of Flyers' point leaders, and best of all, Hayes scored most of those points at 5-on-5 (32 of his 54 points were at 5-on-5).
He also was similar to prior seasons in on-ice advanced play metrics. He finished with a Corsi-For percentage of 49.87% at 5-on-5, which fits his history of hovering just above or below the break-even mark when at full strength. The only real point of importance to note from his advanced stat profile is the fact he played a lot more minutes at 5-on-5 compared to prior seasons, with the most likely explanation for this being he played the most games in one season in his career thus far (81 games). He averaged around 17 minutes on ice per any given game, which is in line with his last few seasons.
Considering his on-ice performance, it's hard to criticize Hayes outside of the macro-view affect he and his contract have on the team. He didn't have a bad season, at all. But the overall vibe with Kevin is negative. It's a weird place to be with a player both we – and the Flyers! – expected to be a core part of the team's success moving forward.
Did they live up to expectations?
Kevin Hayes did indeed live up to expectations, and he had a very good "Kevin Hayes season". He didn't take any sort of larger step forward, but did we ever really expect a player in their age 30 season to evolve much beyond their current ability level? It would be more of a hope than an expectation for such an event to occur.
What can we expect from next season?
Likely more of the same for Kevin Hayes, which would be 40-50ish points if he's healthy, a two-way play style, and a calibre of play befitting for a low tier top-six/high tier middle-six forward. Probably on another team.
How do we grade their 2022-23 season?
In the end, for 2022-23, Kevin Hayes was Kevin Hayes, and overall was a positive influence on the Flyers' play when on the ice as a result of that. We're looking at on-ice performance here, right? He scored points. Points are good.
Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference, and Natural Stat Trick