On July 28th, 2021, general manager Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers brought in veteran defenseman Keith Yandle on a 1-year deal after his 7-year, $6.35 million contract with the Florida Panthers ended.
After adding Ryan Ellis to the defense core only a little over a week before and Rasmus Ristolainen only days earlier, Yandle was a cheap, depth option and an easy add for a team looking to shore up the backend with a player in search of an impressive consecutive games record.
Yandle played 77 games during the 2021-22 NHL season and scored 1 goal and 18 assists for 19 points, the lowest mark of his career with that many games played. He ended the season with a minus-47 rating, the worst of his career, his second-worst coming in 2014-15 with the Arizona Coyotes (minus-32).
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound defenseman from Boston, Massachusetts, was signed as a quarterback for the power play. Even though he wasn’t very effective anywhere else, the offensive part of special teams was where he was best. 11 of his 18 points came on the power play, and so did his only goal of the season. Not to mention it was the only part of his Evolving-Hockey numbers that were semi-decent.
For someone to have played the number of games Yandle did during the regular season while sporting those numbers is astounding. There were reasons he managed to play plenty, but it was agonizing to see him on the ice after a while.
As far as the more advanced numbers go, Yandle sat 22nd out of 26 skaters and second to last among defensemen (only ahead of Nick Seeler) in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at 5v5. Furthermore, he ranked last in expected goals above replacement (xGAR) among all Flyers players and was almost two and a half times worse than the next defenseman in this metric, Ristolainen. His minus-9.4 xGAR also ranked 5th worst in the entire NHL.
The regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart above tells you everything you need to know about Yandle’s ability to stifle defenders and high-danger chances. In short, he was beyond terrible. Among skaters with at least 500 minutes played at 5v5, Yandle was the 7th worst player in the NHL in expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) and the 3rd worst defenseman.
So many numbers show how awful Yandle was, and it would be moot to continue telling you all of them. Any fan that took in an ounce of the shifts he had last season knows the kind of problem he was on the ice.
The players took a liking to him, as most have over Yandle’s 16-year career. However, he was a pleasure to be around in the locker room, but that wasn’t enough for Flyers faithful to justify keeping him in the every night lineup. That is until the night interim head coach Mike Yeo decided to scratch him from the lineup while in pursuit of 1,000 consecutive games played.
After that, an entire debate broke loose about the ethics of playing a player that didn’t deserve a roster spot but was chasing something that has never been done before in the game’s history, especially considering it wasn’t long after Yandle was put back into the lineup. That kind of turmoil lasted until the end of a long and arduous season not only for the 35-year-old defenseman but a worn-down fanbase.
There was no predicting what kind of season Yandle would have, especially in the limited role he received. As much as his teammates loved him off the ice, it wasn’t long into the season when his play was noticeably horrendous and not worth keeping him in the lineup. He just wasn’t good. Everyone should wish Yandle the best, whether it’s with another team or retirement, but it’s for the best that he won’t be returning to Philadelphia.