Hayes returning to action but questions linger

Kevin Hayes

VOORHEES, N.J. – Team officials say when it comes to players who have fallen into disfavor, Flyers head coach John Tortorella doesn’t have the old proverbial doghouse.

That may be so but in the current case of Kevin Hayes, let’s just say the talented forward is being kept on a very short leash.

Tortorella, who benched Hayes for a third period earlier in the season, sat him down for the third period of last Thursday’s game at New Jersey, then did that one better by not dressing him for Saturday night’s game against the New York Rangers.

Nothing personal, according to general manager Chuck Fletcher.

“It’s part of the process,’’ the GM said. “John demands a lot out of the players. Certainly Kevin has been a really good player for us this year, leading our team in scoring. I think there are other areas of Kevin’s game John wants to see more out of.

“That’s part of the coach-player dynamic. We speak about those things all the time. The great thing about John, there’s no doghouse with John Tortorella. He makes his points whether it’s ice time or you sit for a bit or you miss a game but you’re always going to get that chance to get back in there.’’

So forget about those trade rumors. At least for now.

“Kevin’s a really important part of our team,’’ Fletcher said. “He’s a great person. I’m sure he will respond the right way.’’

For his part, Tortorella just wants Hayes to play the right way. Hayes does lead the team with 29 points but that’s a bit offset by his minus-12.

“Stuff happens, I have to make decisions on people,’’ Tortorella said. “Standards are held for everyone in this organization, no matter what draft pick, no matter what stature, no matter what you’re thought about in the area. I have to hold the standard for everybody. And that’s how it’s going to be. I think that’s the proper way to build this hockey club and I’m going to stick by it.’’

Hayes will return to the lineup on Tuesday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Wells Fargo Center.

The coach and the player have had several conversations, so it’s not like Hayes is skating around in the dark here.

On the record, Hayes said he doesn’t believe he deserved to be benched.

“There is no disconnect as far as I’m concerned,’’ Tortorella said. “I’ve had conversations prior to this (latest incident). I don’t want to get into a public debate with Kevin. One of the things I pride myself on is being honest with a player.

“I think they deserve the honesty, be it good or bad. However Kevin feels about it, I don’t understand his thinking there. When it comes to a scratch, I’m never scratching a player for one mistake.’’

Hayes has had some other previous issues. The coach moved him off his traditional position at center over to wing for the first time in his career.

“I don’t think anyone enjoys being scratched,’’ he said. “It’s not my decision.’’

Hayes was asked what he thought Tortorella wanted to see in the way of improvement.

“Defensively I guess,’’ Hayes said. “I try my hardest every night to do the right things here. Sometimes things don’t go your way. I think the icing on the cake was the turnover in Jersey. But I think everyone on this team knows I wasn’t trying to turn the puck over.

“I should have gotten the puck in deep. If I had, maybe I would have been in the lineup the next game. I try to be consistent but he felt like I was doing worse for the team than better, then he decided not to play me.’’

>Couturier update

Sean Couturier, who underwent back revision surgery on Oct. 29 at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas, has been rehabbing and Fletcher said his projected return date is sometime in late February or early March.

“He’s doing real well,’’ Fletcher said. “It’s a three-to-four-month recovery. Hopefully he will be back skating in the next few weeks.’’

As for former Denver University star Bobby “Orr” Brink (who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip back on July 26), his recovery appears to be going positively as well.

“He will see his doctor (Dr. Christopher Larson/Minneapolis) who performed the surgery,’’ Fletcher said. “We hope he will be fully cleared at that point. He’s been skating regularly and just getting into the contact.’’

Brink, who led the Pioneers to an NCAA Division 1 title as well as leading the nation in scoring and securing a finalist’s spot for the Hobey Baker Award (NCAA player of the year), was taken in the second round (34th overall) in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.