NHL defenseman and current Iron Man Keith Yandle retired yesterday after 17 seasons in the league. The 36-year-old holds the record for playing in the most consecutive games (989) in NHL history. Yandle’s stretch lasted from March 26th 2009 until March 29, 2022. As impressive as his Iron Man streak is, it shouldn’t stand as the record for very long.
Just eight games into the 2022-23 season VGK forward Phil Kessel is expected to break Yandle’s streak. On October 24th, Vegas fans will witness history when Kessel ties the record. The next day in San Jose, the newest Golden Knight should play in his 990th consecutive NHL contest.
What’s interesting about Kessel breaking the record in a Golden Knights sweater is the lack of connection to the fans and the city. The right winger played 982 in other uniforms so we’ll see how the Vegas faithful react when Kessel ties and passes Yandle. They may mimic the night Sharks forward Patrick Marleau broke the record for most NHL games played. Some fans at T-Mobile Arena were excited to see league history unfold, others only cared about the score. Much like Marleau’s record, the Iron Man streak isn’t a Golden Knights franchise accomplishment.
You know it towards the end of the year when you’re signing young guys and getting free agents out of college that they’re gonna give them a chance to play. You’ve got to respect that out of the business side of it, what they’re trying to do here. –Keith Yandle, retired NHL defenseman in April 2022
One reasonable question to ask going into this season is how many games will Cassidy give Kessel to extend his record? There may come a point where the new coach considers scratching the veteran for younger bodies. Assuming Kessel’s performance doesn’t dip, we should expect him in the lineup every night. Especially, if the Golden Knights are struggling offensively.
Back to Philly, there was no doubt Yandle hurt the Flyers performance last season. The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicled moments throughout 2021-22 when the organization could/should have sat the struggling defenseman. When the decision was made to bench and end the Iron Man streak some players were upset with management. Others understood that it was time for the team to come first.
I’ve seen it at different times, where sometimes older players can be sort of jealous. I don’t want to say that they are trying to sabotage the young players, but certainly they feel threatened by them. And Keith has been absolutely nothing but supportive, professional with those guys. –Mike Yeo, former Flyers coach in April 2022
Assuming both sides spoke about the Iron Man streak while they were negotiating a contract, Kessel should have plenty of games to pad his stats. Not only will he break the record early on, but the forward’s next goal will also be his 400th. However, there could come a time that Cassidy will need to re-examine his lineup, especially if the team is off course. We have all heard about the coach’s reputation for putting players in their place so it’ll be interesting how Kessel’s minutes or appearances play out. Hopefully, at that point, the team will approach Kessel and have a conversation about the direction of the club.
Heck, that conversation may never happen if Phil the Thrill is tallying a point a game. Either way, we know the Iron Man-to-be will come ready to play.