This isn't going to be a story about how the New York Rangers need to realize what they have in Keith Yandle and have to do everything in their power to keep him. There will be plenty of time after the season ends for those discussions.
This is going to be a story about how good Yandle's been, despite the media-driven garbage written about him that's seeped its way into the general fanbase.
First, let's give some appreciation for what Yandle did against Boston on Wednesday, giving another one of those Herculean efforts
Are you kidding me with that pass? Look at all the players, sticks, legs and skates that puck had to go through to get to Mats Zuccarello. And look at how perfect that pass was, right on the tape for an easy finish.
Oh is that not enough? How about this beauty? Look at what Yandle has in front of him as he enters the zone -- with possession, which can't be understated.
Which he then slices through like a hot knife through butter:
Not only that, Yandle has the wherewithal to look off Tuukka Rask (it looks like he's going to shoot so Rask has to honor that) and all the while knows Derek Stepan is streaking to his right. Once again, he gives a perfect pass for an easy goal.
Let's move past that, though. Let's look at what he's done as a New York Ranger.
Right now Yandle has five goals and 37 assists for 42 points, the highest total since Ryan McDonagh notched 43 points in 2013-2014. It's not unreasonable to assume Yandle will fly past that mark and continue to push forward as one of the best offensive seasons from a defenseman in recent memory.
Here's the other really impressive thing:
Keith Yandle is now 3rd among NHL defenseman in primary assists. Behind only Karlsson and Josi.— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) March 24, 2016
And if that wasn't enough for you then look at this:
Yandle has done that in 400 fewer minutes than Josi and 665 fewer than Karlsson— Kevin Baumer (@kevinbaumer) March 24, 2016
This is where Yandle's criminal misuse makes you really open your eyes at what he's been able to do with what he's gotten. Yandle, until recently, was buried on the second pairing of the power play and seeing third pairing minutes at even strength. After the McDonagh injury, Alain Vigneault finally started leaning on Yandle heavily and it paid off in spades.
Yandle's power play time, of late, has been significantly increased, and his overall TOI has jumped up as well. The Rangers are a better team when he's on the ice and, despite possession issues all year, Yandle still leads all regulars on the team (Dylan McIlrath is at the top but he's not a regular, sadly) with a 50.5% corsi.
Not only that, his scoring chance differential (-22) is the best of all regular defenseman. Not for nothing, but that he's at the top of the list at -22 is all you need to know about this defense and their problems. However, Dan Girardi is the worst on the team with a -192 mark, so, it can be so much worse.
After last year's playoffs, Yandle took a lot of criticism for not being the guy everyone expected him to be on the power play. Except Yandle played 90% of the playoffs with a separated shoulder and still put up 11 points in 19 games. When the Rangers most desperately needed offense in the Eastern Conference Final, Yandle put up seven points in as many games. With a separated shoulder. On a new team in a new system. Some people get all the protection they need for being tough and playing through injuries, Yandle, for whatever reason, is not one of them.
People don't like to hear it, but Yandle has been exceptionally good for the Rangers, something we talked about back in November here. Of all the defenseman in the NHL, Yandle is 11th in the league in assists per 60 (sporting a 0.88 A/60) at even strength. Since Yandle's never been much of a goal scorer, the points per 60 and the goals per 60 numbers aren't tops among the league (he's still sporting a 1.06 P/60 regardless) but you really would have to wonder what the numbers would look like if Yandle was surrounded by players who finished a little more. Or if he wasn't the only person doing the heavy lifting on the power play most nights.
Forget his 24 primary assists or any of the stats we've talked about above, Yandle has easily been one of the Rangers best defenders this year, despite the (once again) media driven narrative that he's bad in his own zone.
Want to know who is 8th on the team in takeaways (first among defenseman)? Yandle with 22. Want to know who leads the team in giveaways? Well, Yandle, with 64 (I originally pulled 5v5 numbers, this is everything). Here's the difference though -- and this deserves a paragraph of its own because this is the main argument for why people think Yandle is bad.
When you have the puck more you give the puck away more. Yandle has given the puck away 64 times, yes, but go look at the top of the list in the NHL in that category. P.K. Subban (106), Erik Karlsson (90), Brent Burns (88), Drew Doughty (87), Andrei Markov (85). Still think Yandle turns the puck over too much? Wouldn't you take any one of those players right now?
The point is: There's a lot of narratives surrounding Yandle that simply aren't true. For whatever reason, skilled players who make the occasional mistake get killed while gritty players who make the constant mistake get praised. The Rangers better realize what they have in Yandle, and fast.
But if you're a fan who doesn't realize what you have, then shame on you. You should be enjoying every second of this year. Players like Yandle don't come around every day, and most team sure as hell would be smart enough not to let them walk.