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The Florida Panthers were on the receiving end of some pretty serious backlash this week, a relatively rare occurrence for a team that has not been known for inspiring passion from their fans. The backlash however may not even be coming from their own fan base as it surrounds a story involving veteran National Hockey League defenseman Keith Yandle, a player that has earned the respect of many fans from around the league.
The situation started when NHL insider Frank Seravalli reported this week that Yandle had fallen out of favor with the Panthers organization, with Seravalli going so far as to suggest that the Panthers had informed Yandle that the team no longer viewed him as a part of their future plans. Now that in and of itself would not be enough to stir up the ire of hockey fans, after all players age and teams move on from those players nearly every single day in the world of professional sports, but it was what that would mean for Yandle's ironman streak that truly had fans up in arms.
As the week rolled along reports began to indicate that the plan was for the Panthers to make Yandle a healthy scratch ahead of their matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, a healthy scratch that would have ended Yandle's 866 game ironman streak in rather unceremonious fashion. It was this jeopardizing of the ironman streak that sparked the backlash, but that backlash as it turns out may have been a little premature.
Florida Panthers insider George Richards reported on Saturday that Yandle was on the ice with the Florida Panthers' game group on Saturday, an indication that the Panthers may in fact use him against the Blackhawks after all. This would of course keep Yandle's ironman streak alive, at least until the next time this situation comes up, but the questions about what the Panthers will do moving forward will remain.
If the Panther's genuinely believing that leaving Yandle on the sidelines gives them the best chance of winning, I can't fault them for doing so streak or no streak. I suspect that in a perfect world the Panthers' would look to place Yandle on waivers and demote him to their taxi squad to mitigate a portion of his $6.3 million cap hit, but Yandle's full no movement clause means that he can, and likely has, block such a move should the Panthers' attempt it. The other possibility would be to trade Yandle to another team, but in his current form and at his current cap hit that would appear to be an extremely unlikely scenario.
Yandle's ironman streak may still be alive by the time Sunday has come and gone but in a shortened and condessed season, and on a team that no longer seems to believe in him no less, it would appear to be only a matter of time before Yandle's streak has reached its inevitable conclusion. Yandle deserves all the credit in the world for being so incredibly tough, including playing through a horrific injury to his mouth during the 2019 - 2020 season, but the Panthers also deserve to run their hockey team the way they see fit.