COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: JIMMY HAYES
Countdown to camp: Jimmy Hayes
From now until the beginning of training camp, CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Jimmy Hayes.
One of the more interesting things headed into the 2016-17 regular season will be how things turn out for Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes after a rough first season in Boston. He went through long stretches where it felt as if he wasn’t bringing it 100 percent. He ultimately underachieved compared to the previous season with the Florida Panthers and he became a target for sports talk radio as the poster boy for the B’s underperformance last season. It appears that Hayes will get a chance to turn all of that around this season and it’s wholly on him to make it happen.
What happened last year
Hayes certainly had his brief, shining moments: a four-point game against the Avalanche in the first few weeks of the season, a hat trick in a blowout win over the Ottawa Senators and an attempt to drop the gloves at the end of the Winter Classic blowout loss to the Canadiens. But by and large, the 6-foot-6, 221-pound Hayes really wasn’t good for the Bruins while dropping from 19 goals in Florida to 13 last season. The big-bodied forward wasn’t as effective in front of the net on the power play as Bruins management had hoped and he went through long, unproductive stretches where it felt like his effort level was less than stellar. So, Hayes found himself in Claude Julien’s doghouse toward the end of the season and had Bruins fans getting on him. To make matters worse, the harsh criticism directed at Hayes as a local kid done bad appeared to have some kind of impact on the attempts to woo Jimmy Vesey. While rumors of Hayes discouraging Vesey not to sign with the B’s seem over-the-top, there’s no question Vesey’s family had a close view of Hayes and his family chafing at the harsh spotlight in his first season in Boston. That certainly wasn’t something that ended up in the “pro” column when the Vesey camp was making the decision to not sign with the Bruins.
Questions to be answered this season
Is the Hayes experiment going to work playing for his hometown Bruins? Are Bruins fans going to forgive and forget that the 26-year-old coasted through long portions of last season? Hayes isn’t going to get much slack this season, so it would be best for him to hit the ground sprinting and really show energy, passion and a whole lot of size and strength around the net area if he wants to make it work. It was mind-numbing to watch Hayes play far away from the crease area in offensive zone possessions and even more watching opponents rough up Hayes’ linemates while he watched disinterestedly without doing much of anything in return. Hayes needs to find a way to bring the focus and intensity that’s demanded every night and play to his strengths. If he does things, he’ll be okay. If he doesn’t, then he will become an enormous piñata for Bruins fans angry that this team has underachieved for multiple seasons.
In their own words
“I think Jimmy had a pretty good start to the year, but he really tailed off when the team needed him most. He should take some responsibility for that. We had a pretty frank discussion about that to challenge him to take his game to another level, and be able to help out a younger player. He played a lot with Ryan Spooner. I have to put ownership on Jimmy in terms of saying ‘Hey, I have to take more responsibility. It’s not just about finishing and scoring goals.’ He has the capacity to do that. He gets power play time and net-front time, and he needs to get to the hard areas of the ice with more consistency. It’s an area that he needs to continue to improve upon. We as an organization feel that we need to have players that are driven to get better.” –Bruins GM Don Sweeney, at the NHL draft, challenging Hayes to be a bigger impact player this coming season.
Hayes has heard criticism from just about all corners after a bust of a first season in Boston. Heshould have plenty of natural motivation for a big rebound year for the Black and Gold. Clearly, it’s gut check time for No. 11 and it’s about finally realizing that he can be a dominant force if he simply plays hard on a consistent basis, plays to his strengths and decides to play with a lot more attitude on a much more regular basis. Perhaps it’s just not in a laid-back guy like Hayes to play with the fire necessary to succeed in the NHL, but he’s never going to make it as a slow-moving forward trying to score off the rush. Hayes is a slug-it-out behemoth built for battle in the tough areas of the ice and needs to go there every time the puck is in the offensive zone. If he comes out of the gate playing like he did last season or falls into poor habits this season, it’s doubtful the Bruins are going to show the same kind of patience with him as they did last season. It’s up to Hayes to decide whether he wants things to end happily for him in Boston, or if playing for his hometown team ends up being the worst thing that could have happened to him in his pro career.