As of late, things have not gone as planned for the Philadelphia Flyers, but for one defenseman nothing can seem to go right. On a nightly basis, Keith Yandle has become a target for Flyers fans on social media due to his lackluster play. Yandle signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Flyers in July with the hope of becoming a solid defenseman for at least one season. He has clearly struggled over the last two months as his play continues to be a hazard for the team, but are things really that bad?
He started the season off strong in the first handful of games, but that, unfortunately, did not last long. In the first three games of the season, he racked up five assists while logging over 20 minutes of ice time each game, then things went cold. He would not record another point until 20 games later, and nearly two months. Throughout the last handful of games, his play has become more of a problem for the team, but with injuries and players being placed into the league’s COVID-19 protocols, there are not many options to replace him at the moment.
Regardless of his play as of late, he is still a solid defenseman night after night, as he has proved over the course of his 16-year NHL career. He would not be in a position to break the ironman streak held by Doug Jarvis from October of 1975 to October of 1987 if he was not a solid enough defenseman.
Is the Ironman Streak in Jeopardy?
While Yandle’s play as of late has certainly become a concern for the Flyers, there is no reason to sit him out as he is within 10 games of breaking the ironman streak. He was not signed to be a point-producing defenseman, nor was he signed to be a top pair caliber guy. He was brought in to eat minutes and provide leadership in the locker room, which he has absolutely done since arriving in Philadelphia.
He has done exactly what the team expected of him since the beginning of the season. Prior to the start of the season, Yandle spoke about what the streak meant to him up until this point in his career and the memories he has made while playing hockey (from ‘New Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle not focused on becoming the Cal Ripken of hockey,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/27/2021).
“Honestly, not too much,” he said. “I say it a lot, but I am lucky enough to play one game in the NHL. It is truly a blessing to put on a sweater every night. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am able to play in the NHL, the best league in the world, to meet the greatest people in the world.
“All of my friends I have are from hockey, whether it is playing youth growing up, high school, or juniors,” Yandle said. “I owe pretty much everything in my life to hockey, so it is one of those things that I am thankful for every day.”
If all goes as planned, Yandle will break the streak in 10 games, as he has played 33 games so far this season. Pending cancelations and postponements, the streak would be broken on January 24th as the Flyers host the Dallas Stars at the Wells Fargo Center.
What Happens After the Streak Is Broken?
With Yandle being so close to breaking the ironman streak, it does not make sense to take him out of the lineup until after the streak is broken. In the meantime, the Flyers need to start thinking about some younger players that can be inserted into the lineup in place of the struggling defenseman.
One of those options is certainly Cam York, who is already on the active roster for the time being. With York already being a replacement option for Ryan Ellis, the Flyers need to think about who else they can insert into the lineup. He is more than likely going to spend more time with the team than originally anticipated, which is not a bad thing considering he is talented enough to stay in the NHL lineup.
Egor Zamula could be another option to replace Yandle after the streak is broken if he comes out of the lineup. Zamula was signed by the Flyers as a free agent on Sep. 20, 2018. The big-bodied defenseman has spent the two seasons with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, where he has put up decent numbers in 50 games played.
York and Zamula grew close over the last few years through development camps and playing for the Phantoms. Both prospects have spent the last two years together in the American Hockey League.
“He’s a great guy off the ice, a funny guy,” York said of Zamula. “Trying to learn from him just like he’s trying to learn from me, so it’s a good culture. We’re trying to build a pretty good relationship here.”
The pair of top-rated defensemen could have a huge impact on the future of the Flyers moving forward. Both players are currently on the active roster for the Flyers as the team deals with COVID-19 issues, so we might see the pairing sooner than we all think.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator as the team competes in their inaugural season. He also serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.