A player is fifth on the team in total shots on goal at 69 shots in 37 games. He’s a positive possession player. He is currently shooting 8.7%. Last season he shot 15.3%, with 111 shots in 79 games, so he’s on pace to put more shots on net this year than last. He’s tied for fourth on the team in total primary assists, and sixth in points/60. He’s had some inconsistent linemates the last stretch of games, where his slumping team played-- overall-- poorly.
The coach says, "the hockey player right now isn't totally doing it for me" and sits him for the second game in a row.
The Rangers earned their win against Tampa. They adjusted their game when needed to, clogging up the neutral zone and forcing Tampa to dump the puck in.
They outshot and out chanced their opponent, a rare event this season. And if someone is going to sit out to learn, that game was a good one to watch; New York’s play was a lot better than the usual technique of letting pucks through and praying to Henrik Lundqvist.
Sitting Kevin Hayes for one game to send a message isn’t a fantastic move, but it’s understandable: the Rangers do need more from him. Sitting him two games in a row looks like the start of a pattern. That’s indicative of the coach.
If there’s a message being sent, what’s the message? It’s easy to say that Hayes has looked lazy on the ice, or that he’s a turnover machine. You still have to have the puck to turn it over in the first place-- turnovers aren’t the greatest judge of a player’s ability. Hayes isn’t not scoring as much, but he’s putting more shots on goal per game than he did last year. If Hayes sits until the Rangers lose a game, they’re not putting their best lineup on the ice, and the coach specifically is not giving his team the best chance to win. The same problem existed when Glass was in the minors and Vigneault played Stoll over Etem. Scratching a positive possession player for a negative one who can’t even score is on the coach. It makes the team worse.
The Rangers have had issues this year generating shots. Last year, they averaged 29.9 shots for/60 at even strength, and the year before that 31.2 SF/60. This year, with 38 games played, they’re down to 26.3 SF/60, giving up 29.3 SA/60. It’s one thing to be a high-event team if you can produce shots for, but New York’s defense can’t get the puck out, they’re dumping the puck in far more than they should, and they’re failing to cleanly enter the zone. Hayes often carries the puck in instead of dumping it, and carrying the puck in leads to more shot attempts than dump-ins. With their depressed offense, the Rangers need that offensive support, and it needs to start from who plays and who plays when.
Scratching a talented forward while continuing to give ice time to possession anchors is shortsighted coaching. It’s not even that Hayes couldn’t use the games off to watch and learn-- it’s that the Rangers can’t afford it right now.