As a franchise, the Arizona Coyotes and their players aren’t necessarily eyeing many positive records. Sunday provided an exception, though, as Phil Kessel broke his tie with Doug Jarvis, playing his 965th game in a row to earn the second-longest “ironman streak” in NHL history. Kessel is now second only to Keith Yandle, whose record ironman streak currently rests at 988 consecutive games.
Phil Kessel ‘ironman streak’ (965 games) now ranks second only to Keith Yandle
So, right now, it’s a difference of 23 games.
Kessel is 34 (35 on Oct. 2) while Yandle is 35 (36 on Sept. 9). Theoretically, each player could extend their streaks beyond 1,000 games in a row.
It begs a few questions. Most obviously, will Kessel or Yandle end up on top with the longest streak once those end? Most uncomfortably, will the free agent market (or league perception overall) make the call for them?
How will both streaks end? Could they end due to declining interest?
As you may remember, Keith Yandle almost saw his ironman streak end in early 2021 when he was nearly a Panthers healthy scratch. One couldn’t help but notice a lack of trade deadline interest in Phil Kessel’s services.
Clearly, Kessel and Yandle play very different positions. Even so, it’s striking that they’re both deeply flawed players at this point in their careers. At times, they were dogged by excessive criticism about perceived defensive weaknesses. Now, they’re living up to those reputations, and not providing enough offense to make the warts worth it.
Look at their multi-season RAPM charts from Evolving Hockey side by side, and it’s fair to wonder if both streaks may end because of a lack of interest.
Sure, you could make an argument for giving both Kessel and Yandle a shot next season. Yandle, for one, already got a low-risk deal from the Flyers for 2021-22 ($900K cap hit).
In a way, it’s fair to wonder if those streaks could subtly limit that already-shaky appeal. After all, do you want to be the coach/team that ends the Kessel or Yandle ironman streaks with a healthy scratch? Would that even nudge a team to keep them in the lineup when they can’t hack it?
While that’s all a bummer, it’s delightful to see Kessel reach this mark. Just look at this wonderfully simple GIF:
That's our Iron Man 🦾 pic.twitter.com/yKWMXGPeDQ
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 27, 2022
Both Yandle and Kessel have probably been called “soft” during their careers, yet each player just keeps trucking along. That’s fun, even if it was more fun to watch them when they more closely resembled superheroes.