Flyers

Kevin Hayes was the missing piece of the Flyers' puzzle

Kevin Hayes was the missing piece of the Flyers' puzzle

If there was never a halt to the 2019-20 NHL season, the race for the Stanley Cup would have been in full force right about now. Conference Finals games would have been underway and the Flyers would have been pushing for their first taste of the Finals since 2009-10. Yes, I firmly believe what the Flyers were working toward this season was something special. 

It’s clear that there were many new elements being implemented during training camp back in September. While new faces behind the bench were added since last season, there was another crucial addition to the squad during the summer that should now be considered the missing piece.

Kevin Hayes. 

At the initial point of his signing, no one knew the impact Hayes was going to have on his new team. The relationship he created with head coach Alain Vigneault during their time with the Rangers certainly helped with the transition but it felt like the 28-year-old fit right in.  

“It’s old stuff obviously with a new team,” Hayes noted back during training camp. “With the same coach that I had my first four years, it’s relieving to be able to get as comfortable with the coach as soon as possible.” 

At first, the level of normalcy in the locker room almost felt too good to be true. Dating back to one of the first times Hayes spoke to media back in September — it was like he was meant to end up in Philadelphia. It doesn’t matter if that sounds a bit cliché, you could sense a different energy compared to what the room was like before he was a member of it. 

And it took little to no time before Hayes wanted to start making his mark in the organization by taking on a leadership role. 

“As soon as I signed here, I was getting text messages from some of the players,” Hayes said. “I’m an older guy now — kind of. Try to help all the younger guys, try to explain how quick the drills go from one drill to the other.

“When I was younger, I looked up to guys and I’m just trying to be that guy now.” 

Things are always easier said than done and while it was something he noted during his early days — just how much of an impact was he really going to make in his first year? It turns out, quite a big one. 

After signing a seven-year deal with the Flyers, he quickly earned the respect of his teammates and was named an alternate captain — which was announced leading up to the Global Series that was held in Prague, Czech Republic. (It’s almost hard to believe the Global Series even occurred at the start of the season — feels like ages ago.) 

It only took five periods and some change into the year before he found the back of the net for his first time as a Flyer — and a power play goal during the home opener definitely makes for a great first impression. 

From that point on, Hayes became a crucial part to the core of this team and an absolute fan-favorite as the season evolved. 

His contributions on-ice added much needed depth down the center. Imagine if Hayes didn’t sign with the Flyers and the news was still released about Nolan Patrick and his migraine disorder? Chances are, Claude Giroux would have had to move back to the middle, which would have broken up the strong duo of him and Sean Couturier … and fans would have rioted if productivity didn’t meet their expectations. 

Thankfully — for everyone’s sake — that was not the case. So far through his 69 games played, he’s tallied 41 points (23 goals 18 assists).  He sits fifth overall on the team in points, just behind Travis Konecny (61), Couturier (59), Jakub Voracek (56) and Giroux (53). 

Producing on special teams also became one of his strong points — having four short-handed goals and being an absolute force on the penalty kill. 

Now, let’s get back to that fan-favorite aspect — and it has everything to do with him being mic’d up. There have been hysterical bits left and right that not only showcase the comedic side of him, but also the bond and relationships he’s been building with teammates. Athletes are still people at the end of the day and seeing the human aspect of moments like these put him high on the list of favorites. Accomplishing that in such a small amount of time is something that not every athlete in Philadelphia can say, but he has been welcomed with open arms. 

If I were to rank how the Flyers did in free agency this offseason, I would say they won the whole thing thanks to Hayes. They didn’t have to go after one of the top free agents and severely overpay — that was not the need for the Flyers. The talent was already here and it was time to fill the gaps and find players that complimented the current roster. 

Going out and getting big-named talent doesn’t fix anything without having a well-rounded team. If that were the case, Connor McDavid and the Oilers should have at least three cups by now. 

Remember when the Devils “won” the offseason because they had the first overall pick, drafted Jack Hughes and acquired P.K. Subban? They’re currently sitting at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division because there are still far too many holes within that roster to become a threat of any sort in the East. 

The same goes for the New York Rangers after signing Artemi Panarin. Don’t get it twisted — Panarin was having a Hart Trophy caliber season, which helped the Rangers get on the league’s radar at times. Though looking at the surrounding talent on their roster, things were never going to grow since majority of the work was heavily relied on one person. 

Does that ring a bell? 

Giroux had been carrying the weight of the Flyers on his back for a decade — and there is finally balance throughout the entire roster. This is why the season was clicking on every level. If one player didn’t show up one night, there were others right in line to step up and take responsibility. In previous years, that was never the case. A slow night from Giroux often meant a loss of two points.

One single addition in Hayes completed a puzzle that was in the works for years. There is veteran presence being utilized the right way, a young core with proper guidance and trust from the coaches, new bench bosses with impressive résumés and the future of the franchise with Carter Hart between the pipes. 

If and when the 2019-20 NHL season returns — the finished product is going to be one for the ages and that all traces back to that final piece. 

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Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing possible playoff matchups in NHL's 24-team format

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing possible playoff matchups in NHL's 24-team format

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall pick a playoff matchup for the orange and black.

From looking at the 24-team format to Michael Barkann's interview with Bernie Parent, let's dive in:

1:00 — Which playoff matchup would we prefer for the Flyers?

6:00 — Should we care about fairness in the 24-team bracket?

10:15 — Pick one of the two: season canceled or Penguins win the Cup?

13:30 — Parent has high praise for Carter Hart and the Flyers

16:25 — Why Hart is a great fit for Philadelphia

20:00 — Sharing our most painful hockey memory

25:30 — A taste of the "Marathon on Ice"

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NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

The NHL on Monday released a protocol for a potential Phase 2 in its hope to eventually resume the season and award the Stanley Cup.

Phase 2 would see players being allowed to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.

The NHL is targeting a date in early June for an implementation of Phase 2, "however, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last," the league stated.

The 2019-20 season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The league is hoping to resume the season under a 24-team format, but specific details for such a scenario are to be determined.

As for Phase 2, here is a section from the NHL's memorandum:

We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties.

As we have stated repeatedly, the health of the players and club personnel is our top priority, and that will dictate how Phase 2, and any progression thereafter, may evolve. We again emphasize that player participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary. In addition, clubs are not permitted to require players to return to the club’s home city so they can complete a quarantine requirement in time to participate in Phase 2.

Clubs whose local health authorities would allow for the reopening of club facilities will be required to consult with and seek approval from the league prior to any reopening of club facilities. In those jurisdictions which continue to restrict or prohibit such activity from occurring, and in order to address potential competitive concerns, the league will work with those clubs to facilitate alternative arrangements, if desired. Further, clubs are required to comply with the public health mandates and recommended best practices of the CDC and/or Public Health Agency of Canada (“Health Canada”) applicable to them and the facility in which Phase 2 activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may take place after the commencement of Phase 2.

Let's look at some of the key points from the league's memorandum, which you can read in full here.

Testing

Players and club personnel shall be administered laboratory-based RT-PCR tests 48 hours prior to anyone returning to their team's training facility. The testing "must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests," the league stated.

To determine if this will be feasible in each club’s local market, clubs shall engage with your local health authorit(ies) (as well as any other applicable health authorities such as state, provincial or federal) to determine whether asymptomatic players and other club personnel are eligible under applicable regulations and local conditions to receive PCR tests, either publicly or privately, provided that doing so does not take testing resources away from publicly necessary testing.

If testing is not available at the start of Phase 2, players who wish to participate in Phase 2 activities and “Player Access” club personnel must self-quarantine for 14 days prior to entering the facility (or, certify that they have already served a self-quarantine for the prior 14 days in the club’s home market, in which event they will be eligible to enter the facility when Phase 2 begins).

Self-quarantine

Before being allowed access to club facilities, players and permitted personnel may be required to serve a 14-day self-quarantine period imposed by local health authorities, regardless of their mode of travel (private or charter travel).

Even if not imposed by the local health authorities, such individuals returning to the club’s home city by public transportation, including commercial air or rail travel, must serve a 14-day self-quarantine period post-travel before engaging in training activities at their club’s facility.

If players and personnel departed this week for their respective club's city, it would allow them access to the facility sometime in the second week of June, if the league has decided to implement Phase 2.

Permitted activities

Six players are permitted inside the facility per session, while coaches and hockey operations personnel will be allowed to observe "the player-only non-contact skates commencing on the later of the date on which the commencement of training camp is announced by the League or two weeks after the club’s commencement of Phase 2 activities," the league stated.

Skating will consist of non-contact sessions with appropriate social distancing.

When players are not participating in on-ice activities they will be permitted to utilize the club’s exercise and weight room equipment, or receive individual treatment from the club’s medical/training staff:

• Weight training that does not include the need for a spotter 
• Circuit-based activities such as resistance training
• Cardiovascular exercises and endurance training
• Rehabilitation and treatment for players with ongoing disabling injuries and for players with non-disabling injuries, may be provided as directed by club medical/training staff

What's next?

There is no firm date for Phase 2. But if the NHL implements it in early June, it could allow for eventual training camps in late June and a possible resumption of the season at some point in July.

That roadmap is in complete theory. The situation will continue to be a day-to-day process for the NHL. Things can change and there are still many obstacles but the detailed plan for Phase 2 is a potential step forward.

June is when the Stanley Cup is typically awarded and the month in which the NHL entry draft is normally held. The NHL will soon have decisions to make on the date of the currently-postponed draft. There could also be an announcement this week on the specifics of the 24-team format. Here's how it could look for the Flyers.

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