Flyers

Let's not forget the point of Kevin Hayes and his value to Flyers

Let's not forget the point of Kevin Hayes and his value to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Kevin Hayes contract was and will always be polarizing.

Especially in a market as passionate and demanding as Philadelphia.

When seven years and $50 million are doled out to a forward, the eyes automatically go to the columns that count goals and points. They will this season and for the next six. Hayes was aware of that reality when he signed with the Flyers in June.

“I think early on, obviously I signed that big deal and I wanted to come in here and have 82 goals and 82 assists,” Hayes said Tuesday, “but that’s just not how it works.”

Not with a player like Hayes. Wins can serve as a proper reminder of that, as can the less ostentatious statistics. General manager Chuck Fletcher made clear from the outset the Flyers would not judge Hayes purely by the center’s offensive production.

To start the 2019-20 season, Hayes felt the need to put up points — a tangible way to quickly justify his new deal and win over fans, to show why the Flyers were wise to sign him.

“I think at the beginning, with the media and the fans, when you sign that deal, you want to come in and be on everybody’s good graces right away,” Hayes said. “When you’re not putting up points, it’s easy to think you’re not playing great hockey.”

The Flyers’ staff noticed a difference in Hayes. Alain Vigneault, who coached him in New York from 2014-18, knows Hayes’ game well.

The coaches grabbed me after about six or seven games in and felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself, cheating the game a little bit offensively and kind of exposing myself out there. Since we’ve had that meeting, I’ve gotten back to playing the right way defensively, I think I’m playing good hockey. Obviously I haven’t been getting a ton of points, but I’m playing the right way.

It was kind of just, ‘Hey, we didn’t bring you in here to get 100 points this year.’ Points are great, but I think I was brought in to play a 200-foot game, to help the PK, help the PP when they needed help, to play the right way and be somewhat of a leader on the ice.

I still play a lot of minutes every night and, honestly, it’s the most fun I’ve had playing hockey in a while and I think a lot of it has to do with the team winning and everyone being so close.

Hayes has seven points (four goals, three assists) in 17 games. He has gone scoreless over the past seven games, but the Flyers are off to their best start since 2011-12 and Hayes has made an impact.

The Flyers entered the year with the NHL’s second-worst penalty kill since 2014-15 at 78.4 percent. This season, through the Flyers’ 10-5-2 start, the PK has ranked seventh at 85.4 percent. The Flyers are 8-2-1 since Oct. 21, a stretch in which the club has been the league’s third-best shorthanded team at 90.9 percent.

Hayes leads Flyers forwards in penalty kill ice time (31:01) but is eighth in power play ice time (22:33). Since Oct. 21, he has played just 2:55 on the man advantage, so Hayes’ point production must come at even strength. It’s why his PK work is so vital and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Do the Flyers need him to score? Of course — Hayes and his coaches know it, too. After all, the Flyers signed him for multiple reasons, not to only kill penalties.

“There’s still more there,” Vigneault said. “Hayesy, when he defends well, plays that 200-foot game, the offense comes with himself. Right now, I do think he’s pressing a little bit offensively, he’s putting pressure on himself. His best hockey this year, when he was fully committed … it was almost defense first, then offense. When he does that, he’s a real effective player.”

Inevitably, the offensive numbers will be placed under a microscope, examined and compared to the monetary figures on his contract.

However, don’t lose sight of what the Flyers needed to change. Seventeen games into the 2019-20 season, they are allowing fewer goals, are tied for the NHL’s sixth-best point percentage and haven’t even gotten close to Hayes’ best.

“I hold myself to a high standard where I think I should be contributing offensively, but that hasn’t come too much yet,” Hayes said. “I’m not really too concerned about it, it will come, I’ve been an offensive player my whole life.

“It hasn’t really crossed my mind. I know what I bring to the table and the biggest thing for me is the team stats. … I think it’s a lot different when your team is struggling, that’s when you kind of start caring about points, start proving, ‘Oh, I’m playing the right way because I’m getting my points.’ I don’t think that’s the case here.”

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Ivan Provorov

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Ivan Provorov

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Ivan Provorov. 

Destra

From the minute his name was announced in the 2015 NHL draft and Provorov was on his way to the Flyers, there was a strong sense of hope for the future of the team’s blue line. That feeling has only continued to grow since — with its current peak being the 2019-20 season. 

A big part of this was thanks to the acquisition of seasoned defenseman Matt Niskanen. He not only gave Provorov the ability to be a force during every one of their shifts, but was also a true veteran leader for the 23-year-old. In prior seasons, Provorov displayed his strength and the potential of what he could become in years to follow — this is the year that narrative changed. What a treat it has been to watch someone so young, with the talent and discipline he has, put his name on the map. 

There’s no denying that Provorov is a workhorse — he led the team in time on ice with 24:51, led defensemen in points with 36 (13 goals, 23 assists). This season he also reached career milestones of 100 points and 300 games played. By the looks of the player he’s quickly becoming, it’s safe to say this is just the beginning. 

A+ for the future (and the now) of the Flyers’ blue line. 

Fordyce 

The addition of Niskanen has done wonders for Provorov’s game and as a result, this year we’ve seen him be more of a force on both ends of the ice. Much of that is because of Niskanen’s positionally sound play that allows Provorov to freelance from the opposite point. Another key to Provorov’s season was his health. Last season, Provorov was returning from an injury suffered in the previous season’s playoffs and it showed; he looked like a totally different player.

While Provorov still has some work to do, as most players do, he’s taken a huge step this season. Flyers Postgame Live analyst Al Morganti has often referred to Provorov as the “adult in the room” despite his young age. Last season was a departure from that sort of reputation for Provorov. This season though, Provorov returned to that form and clearly will be a mainstay on the Flyers' blue line for the long-term future. 

An A for Provorov.

Hall

Provorov, the team's Sean Couturier on the blue line, once again didn't miss a contest (he has suited up in 315 straight since the start of his career), played the league's eighth-most minutes per game at 24:51, led all NHL defensemen in power play goals with seven, and led Flyers blueliners in goals (13), points (36), blocked shots (111), shorthanded ice time (189:30) and man advantage ice time (210:05).

The winner of the 2019-20 Barry Ashbee Trophy has become a bona-fide do-it-all defenseman for the Flyers at 23 years old.

A- for Provorov's impressive rebound in Year 1 of the 2015 first-round pick's new contract.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Tyler Pitlick. 

Destra

After earning his first point with the Flyers in the opening game of the season, it took a little bit of time before Pitlick found a rhythm with his new team. Little did anyone know in those opening weeks, that he would soon become a huge asset to the bottom six on the roster. 

Much like the Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen trade in the offseason, trading Ryan Hartman for Pitlick didn’t seem too significant at the time and created more questions than answers. It turns out, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher knew exactly what he was doing. While there were a handful of rookies like Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel adjusting to the pros, Pitlick added a level of solidification to the bottom lines. He, alongside players like Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl — who are well-known for their steady performance — made each of the Flyers’ four lines weapons. 

Through 63 contests, Pitlick tallied 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and would be a valuable asset moving forward with the Flyers. 

Let’s give Pitlick a B for an overall solid season. 

Fordyce 

Early in the season, you didn’t notice Pitlick much and while sometimes for a player like Pitlick not hearing his name is a good thing (as it means he’s doing his job), that was not the case for Pitlick in the early going as he struggled. As the season wore on though, Pitlick carved out a nice role for himself with the team and began to flourish.

A simple look at his game log in 2019 shows that Pitlick was a minus player 10 times, but after the calendar changed to 2020, Pitlick had a minus rating only three times. In addition, later in the season Pitlick developed more of an offensive game, chipping in with goals and assists from time to time. After struggling at the start, Pitlick overall turned into a reliable veteran down the stretch. 

He gets a B from me.

Hall

When the Flyers acquired Pitlick last summer, he explained his game:

"I'm a physical, north-skating player. I can score and make plays when I get the chance. I'm going to be physical and I'm going to create energy and compete as hard as I can."

Pitlick was a man of his word. He provided exactly that to the Flyers in the 2019-20 regular season. It's fair to say among the Flyers' other offseason acquisitions — Kevin Hayes, Niskanen and Justin Braun — Pitlick came with the least hype, but he became a pleasant surprise as a consistently effective bottom-six forward.

With each game, you never questioned Pitlick's effort because he was always noticeable by playing his active, north-south style. When you're constantly noticeable in limited minutes, you're doing something right.

Pitlick joined the club with an attractive $1 million cap hit and a contract set to expire this offseason. He then played his way into consideration to be re-signed by the Flyers. Good for him.

A well-earned B+ for Pitlick.

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