Mike Yeo defends ending Yandle’s ironman streak

The Philadelphia defenseman played 989 consecutive games.

After 989 consecutive NHL games, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle will have his ironman streak end on Saturday as the team hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With just 15 games remaining in the regular season and the Flyers already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, more questions were raised as to why exactly the coaching staff decided to pull this move. It’s not like the Flyers are trying to ice the best team possible out there, so what gives?

Flyers head coach Mike Yeo chalked it up to one simple conclusion: The team has young players they want to give more opportunity to, and to see what they have beyond this season.

“It’s important that we get some young players in,” Yeo told reporters before Saturday’s game. “We have to have an eye on the future. … Everybody wants to make sure that we finish the season strong, finish the season the right way,” Yeo said. “We want to make sure that we keep building for the future here, and if that means get some young guys in here, then that’s what we have to do.”

Twenty-three-year-old Ronnie Attard will be making his NHL debut after turning professional once his season at Western Michigan University ended last week, and youngster Cam York continues his climb with more and more on-ice responsibilities. Yeo clearly values their progress more than attempting to please the 35-year-old Yandle.

But he does understand the significance of the player’s achievement.

“My only hope is that is that he just recognizes just how amazing it is, what he’s done,” Yeo said. “It’s truly an amazing accomplishment. So, it was very difficult, no question. He is nothing but a phenomenal pro. He handled it extremely well. Obviously disappointed, which you would expect from a competitor and a hockey player that’s been doing it for as long as he has.

“Not many people can say that they’ve done something that nobody in the history of the NHL has ever done. In no way does this diminish what he’s accomplished. It is remarkable, and certainly something to be extremely proud of.”

Earlier this season, Yandle broke Doug Jarvis’s record of consecutive games played once he hit the 965-game mark. Now the record stands at 989, until someone — probably Phil Kessel —  breaks the decade-long attempt.