Flyers Make Very Poor Decision to End Yandle’s Iron-Man Streak

The Philadelphia Flyers made the decision to end Keith Yandle‘s all-time iron-man streak at 989 consecutive games played by making him a healthy scratch for the team’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. This may have been a long time coming with his play and after players were being signed and Yandle was practicing on the fourth defence pair.

The streak may have been coming to an end anyway with the role that Yandle is now playing in his career. He has played the third pairing all season and the Flyers have had another down year, already being eliminated from playoff contention. He has one goal and 16 points in 67 games this season.

Yandle Iron-Man Streak Was a Rare Bright Spot in Flyers’ Season

The streak started on March 26, 2009, when Yandle was with the Phoenix Coyotes. Earlier this season he passed Doug Jarvis’ mark of 965 for the most consecutive games played in NHL history. He continued that with the Flyers until last night when they decided to make him a healthy scratch.

Keith Yandle Philadelphia Flyers
Keith Yandle, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It is impressive enough to hit 1000 career games since only 366 players have done so in NHL history. But he would have done so without missing a single game due to injury, illness, or even through COVID-19.

A look at the road that got Yandle to this point:

  • Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes – 448 GP (558 total GP)
  • New York Rangers – 103 GP
  • Florida Panthers – 371 GP
  • Flyers – 67 GP

He has played in 1099 games, so he is already part of that exclusive group of players to reach 1000. The Flyers didn’t qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.

I understand the mindset of trying to get younger players injected into the lineup, but there are better ways of doing that than sitting Yandle just 11 from 1000 consecutive games played. This wasn’t a very classy move by the Flyers when there’s not much to play for, and the lineup could be shuffled around to fit those young players in instead of ruining one of the most difficult accomplishments in NHL history.

Poor Decision by the Flyers

Former and active players were not impressed with the decision made by the Flyers to sit Yandle while healthy because each and every one of them knows how difficult it is to do and the commitment it takes. He fought through injuries to show up at the rink every day, including a recent scare when he took a puck to the face and returned with a face shield later in the game.

Mike Yeo spoke to the media before the game to explain the decision to keep Yandle out of the lineup, “We’re at the point in the season where as an organization it’s important we get some young players in…we have to have an eye on the future and what’s coming down the road. We have to give some new guys an opportunity.” (from “Yeo explains Flyers’ decision to scratch Yandle, ending his ironman streak”, NBC Sports Philadelphia, April 2, 2022).

In Yandle’s place was recently signed Ronnie Attard making his NHL debut. First of all, Attard is a right defenceman and Yandle plays the left side. At the very least, the Flyers could have decided to go with seven defensemen to ease the rookie into the NHL or decide to scratch Nick Seeler who has three points in 43 games and is averaging 14:03 a game. Attard finished the game with a minus-4 in the plus/minus column.

Related: Flyers News & Rumors: Cates, Attard, Eliminated From Playoff Contention

Yandle hasn’t had the greatest season as fellow Flyers writer here at The Hockey Writers, Colin Newby, points out and writes about why it was the right decision to scratch him. The streak was bound to end as younger players started to come in, but the message sent one of questionable loyalty. Yes, it is a business decision, but also an unnecessary one with the other moves the Flyers could have made before sitting Yandle. At this point in the season, the Flyers and fans shouldn’t be too broken up about losses since each one brings them closer to a potential higher pick in this stellar upcoming draft.

Yandle was also asked about his streak ending, where he showed just the kind of person and teammate he is saying, “It’s kind of been one of those things toward the end of the year when you’re signing young guys and getting free agents out of college, they’re going to give them a chance to play. It’s tough to have a bad day in the NHL. But getting the news you’re not playing is not what you want to hear.” It was a classy response by Yandle, who wasn’t given the same treatment by an organization that has already been officially eliminated from playoff contention.

Keith Yandle Philadelphia Flyers
Keith Yandle, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yandle is not wrong and is the type of team player that will help the young guys joining the team grow as players and people. He has always been a locker room guy and someone with a ton of experience who any team would want in their locker room. The Flyers could have at least let the streak hit 1000 or keep it going until the end of the season when it wouldn’t be their problem and a stain on the organization.

Comparing the Iron-Man Streak Around the League

This season and in recent years, iron-man streaks in the NHL have been a big topic of conversation. These streaks are very long and difficult to reach and always end suddenly with heartbreak.

Two of the top four active iron-man streaks were broken in the past couple of days with the scary injury to Clayton Keller after crashing into the boards and Yandle being a healthy scratch. Keller’s streak ended at 357 games that started at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. His streak ended during a career year as well.

Due to those streaks ending, Phil Kessel now holds the longest-active iron-man streak in the NHL and second-longest all-time behind Yandle. Kessel needs 21 more games to tie Yandle’s record, but he will have to wait until next season as the Arizona Coyotes only have 14 games remaining in 2021-22. Kessel also becomes a free agent after this season so the record may be broken with a new team. He even managed to keep the streak going through the birth of his child, leaving the game after just one shift to be with his family.

The iron-man conversation really started to pick up back when Andrew Cogliano was approaching the record in 2018. He was the NHL’s active leader in consecutive games played and was seventh all-time with 830. A borderline suspension ended the streak. It was very emotional for him and obviously a very important part of his career to play every game and get his name in the history books.

Ivan Provorov, another Flyer, also had his iron-man streak end in January of this year due to COVID. He had played 403 consecutive games to start his career before he was held out for three games. It’s not a good way to end his streak considering he would be third among active players, but at the same time, a good thing that Yandle, Kessel, or Brent Burns’ long streaks didn’t end under those conditions.

Now that Yandle’s incredible streak is over there’s nothing left to do but move on. Yeo spoke about sitting Yandle in favour of younger players, so expect that to be a more regular occurrence for the remainder of the season now that his streak is done.