Panthers’ Yandle Was Better Than He’s Been Given Credit For

Following Joel Quenneville’s decision to healthy scratch Keith Yandle in the playoffs, the Florida Panthers’ defenseman has been looked at as a scapegoat for the club’s first-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, he wasn’t as bad as it sounds like he is.

In a season where he hit 600 career points and 1,000 career games, Yandle still put up some solid numbers. In an 82-game campaign, Yandle would’ve reached the 40-point mark for the 11th time in his 15-year career, an impressive mark of offensive consistency. He also has very good puck possession metrics and shot suppression metrics.

His Criticisms

When watching Yandle play, one of the criticisms thrown at him is that he makes way too many mistakes in the defensive zone. However, the mistakes he makes in the situations he gets criticized for are very common for offensive defensemen of his caliber.

Keith Yandle Florida Panthers
Keith Yandle, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Like most offensive defensemen, Yandle’s bread and butter is creating offense, but mistakes are made when he turns the puck over while trying to force it. However, it’s barely a commonality for him. He only had 32 giveaways in the 2020-21 season, which was far from the most in the NHL and more around league average.

A player like Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators, who leads the league in giveaways with 82, is heralded as one of the better young offensive defensemen in the league despite doing the same things Yandle received criticism for.

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In fact, according to statistics, Yandle creates more goals than he allows, with his expected goals for per 60 being at 2.41 while his expected goals against per 60 was at 2.12 during the 2020-21 season. If you look closely at the numbers, you will find that Yandle is better than what he’s been given credit for.

What the Numbers Say

Yandle’s 27 points this season ties him for 29th out of all defensemen in the NHL. With 18 of them coming on the power play, he ranks as the sixth-most effective blueliner with the man advantage. With just 33.3% of his assists being secondaries, he has proven to be an offensive creator for his team.

Keith Yandle Florida Panthers
Keith Yandle, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When in the offensive zone, Yandle is smart and decisive with the puck. He is able to make the right passes to find the open man, who is usually able to put the puck in the back of the net. He’s the type of quarterback defenseman who can fuel a team’s power play and even offense at times, and that often goes unnoticed.

For instance, on this play in particular, the power play runs through Yandle, who receives the puck off the faceoff and finds MacKenzie Weegar. He then receives the puck back from Weegar after getting into position and fakes the shot before delivering Aleksander Barkov a beautiful no-look pass to win the game for the Panthers.

The value of Yandle on the power play speaks volumes, as he was on the ice for 32 of Florida’s 39 power-play goals this season, ranking second in the league in that area. He also has the most power-play time on ice per game out of every defenseman in the league, with 4:27.

Outside of the offensive side, Keith Yandle has still held his own despite his career reaching its twilight. He’s never been a shutdown defenseman, but he remains a plus puck possession defenseman, checking in with a 56.2 Corsi for percentage (CF%), the best mark of his 15-year career.

Key Stats

Regular Season: 3 goals, 24 assists, 27 points in 56 games

Playoffs: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points in 3 games

Fun Fact: Keith Yandle led the league in power-play shots from a defenseman with 47.

Final Grade: B

While a lot of Yandle’s defensive metrics were still league average this season, the good outweighed the bad for the veteran defenseman. If he were to play with a stay-at-home defenseman who would help mitigate his mistakes next season, he would definitely be productive in 2021-22.

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