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The Philadelphia Flyers have already punted on the current hockey season.
It’s been a monumentally disappointing hockey season on Broad Street where they harbored playoff hopes at the start of the season, and effectively ended it when they traded their longtime captain Claude Giroux at the trade deadline.
In fact, one could argue that the only highlight of this entire season for the Flyers was veteran defenseman Keith Yandle becoming the NHL’s new ironman when he broke Doug Jarvis’ longtime record by playing in his 965th consecutive NHL regular season game back at the end of January. The Massachusetts native was lauded for his professionalism and toughness, and the example he was setting for a young Flyers group that’s clearly in “rebuild” or “reload” mode at this point.
So then why on Earth did the Flyers opt to healthy scratch the 35-year-old Yandle over the weekend when he was just 11 games shy of hitting the 1,000 milestone for his NHL career dating back to 2009? In a season where his ironman streak was the only highlight, it seems besides the point that Yandle had struggled with a minus-39 mark to go along with a goal and 15 points in 67 games as a third pairing defenseman.
The entire Flyers team has struggled defensively over the course of the season, and Yandle has earned his spot over the course of his 15-year NHL career. He’s certainly earned the professional respect to reach for the big-numbered milestone amidst the CORSI cries from the fancy stats brigade that covers the Philadelphia Flyers.
NHL players, by practice and by culture, are loathe to criticize coaches and management out of turn, but even Flyers forward Kevin Hayes had to question the timing the motive behind Yandle becoming a healthy scratch with just weeks left in the regular season, and perhaps in his NHL career.
“Decisions need to be made every day. Us players don’t make those decisions,” said Hayes to the Philly Hockey Now. “It’s truly on us, the reason he probably had to sit out a game. I can’t say I agree with it. The impact that Keith has on myself and the guys in that locker room is something that can’t be measured. I mean, I know sometimes the media is all over him, but what he provides to some of the young guys on this team is something that no one else can do.”
Predictably, the classy Yandle took the high road when discussing something he clearly couldn’t have been on board with.
"It's tough to have a bad day in the NHL," said Yandle to NBC Sports Philly on Saturday. "Getting the news that you're not playing is not what you want to hear — and that's every single guy, every guy wants to be playing, wants to be on the ice, going to battle with their teammates. But once you're on the ice, you're feeling like a kid again, smiling, snapping the puck around. For me, it's just trying to stay positive."
Ironically enough, the Flyers got stomped by the Maple Leafs 6-3 in the game where they scratched Yandle and his young replacement Nick Seeler got injured and couldn’t play on Sunday against the New York Rangers.
If that’s hockey karma, I’m not sure what is. And make no mistake, other NHL veterans are watching how they treated Yandle in Philly and that will go into the calculus of whether or not they want to play there.
Unfortunately, Yandle’s hold on the record may not last very long as Phil Kessel just passed Jarvis for the second-longest ironman NHL streak as well and sits just 21 games behind Yandle’s mark of 989 straight games played.
Now on to the Morning Skate Links:
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp has the counterpoint on the Yandle issues and also calls out the bogus streak that Kessel now has going after he played one shift in a game for the Coyotes earlier this season.
*What an embarrassing call by Coyotes color man Tyson Nash cheering on Jay Beagle giving Troy Terry a beatdown because Trevor Zegras wanted “to skill it up” in a blowout win over Arizona. That led to Zegras rightfully calling out their actions after the game.
*The best move that the Boston Bruins didn’t make was standing pat the No. 2 center position as Erik Haula has been outstanding between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak since the NHL trade deadline. (Boston Hockey Now)
*How about Brady Tkachuck playing street hockey with the local kids after playing in an NHL game for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday?
*Congrats to Leon Draisaitl on hitting the 50-goal and 100-point mark in a season for the second time in his NHL career. Those are big, big numbers. (Sportsnet)
*For something completely different: If you haven’t checked it out yet, the first episode of Moon Knight on Disney+ is pretty solid.