Stephane Yelle was a very smart player who could read the oncoming attacks with great proficiency. As such, he became one of the NHL's most knowledgeable defensive forwards in the later 1990s and in the 2000s.
His hockey smarts were his greatest asset, because the sum of his skills were average at best. He was a good skater, but lacked the speed to be much of a threat. His hand skills made him a limited player offensively. Physically he was tall and rangy, not well built to battle against the league's biggest brutes.
Yet somehow Yelle was able to use his understanding of the game of hockey combined with his hard work to become a key role player and key penalty killer with the ritzy Colorado Avalanche. He helped the Avs win championships in 1996 and 2001, and helped the Calgary Flames reach the finals in 2004. He was a very popular player with the fans and his teammates, but most especially with the coaching staffs.
Yelle is best known with the Avalanche, where he played 3rd line center in the shadows of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Yelle was more than a throw-in in the big trade that took him to Calgary. He was moved along with Chris Drury, to the Flames for Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond and Jeff Shantz.
Yelle, who also played with Boston and Carolina for short stints late in his career, retired in 2010 with 991 games played with 96 goals and 265 points. In the playoffs, where he earned his reputation as a valued NHL player, he chipped in 11 goals and 32 points in 171 post-season games. Underwhelming numbers to be sure, but his two Stanley Cup rings are far more reflective of his true worth.