June 25 2012 07:57PM
It's difficult to read any commentary about Nail Yakupov these days without seeing references to him being confident or cocky. It's a fine line, and often in the eye of the beholder. Whatever you choose to call it, the Edmonton Oilers can use more of it, if you ask me.
If there's a bit of a strut in Yakupov's stride and a degree too much bravado in his words for some (and how can there not be, given the shirt he showed up at EIA in the other day?), that's fine by me, assuming the kid can play. That's no small matter, of course.
That caveat aside, I'm looking forward to my first live look at the dynamic Sarnia Sting winger on the blades when Yakupov and other prospects take to the ice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park Wednesday – after the team announces who the new head coach is.
Fact is, no young man makes it this close to the NHL without beating long odds and being confident in his abilities, whether the tone is understated or over the top, a place on the scale where a lot of people seem to put Yakupov. I don't see any need for him to be apologetic about being here.
A team that's been out of the playoffs for six straight seasons and beaten down like a band class nerd having his head held in the toilet the past three seasons, in particular, could use some of that, no? I say, bring it on.
CONFIDENT OR COCKY?
From James Mirtle at the Globe and Mail: "Yakupov joins a growing cast of elite young talent in Edmonton that’s led by Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – all of whom were taken in the first round in the past four drafts.
Both Hall and Nugent-Hopkins – the first overall picks in 2010 and 2011 – stepped into the NHL immediately after they were drafted, something Yakupov believes he is prepared for.
"I think yeah, why not?" he said, doing little to dispel his reputation as somewhat cocky. "I have lots of time for work in the summer and work with Edmonton (to) try to make the team. I think I’m ready for the NHL."
From Rob Tychkowski at the Edmonton Sun: "One thing I do know is he’s a very confident kid, he’s a very proud individual," GM Steve Tambellini said. "He had no hesitation telling me he was the No.1 pick.
"I love the confidence, and with that comes the courage to back it up and I don’t think he lacks any courage in his ability, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to see him play with some of our skilled people."
Yakupov thinks he's ready for the NHL? The gall. What a blowhard.
THE WAY I SEE IT
Jason Gregor has long insisted the Oilers are too easy to play against, lack edge and don't piss anybody off. I agree completely. There's no question they've collected an impressive array of young talent in the time they've spent face down in the basement of NHL standings, but whom in the core group, aside from maybe Hall, has some swagger or gets under anybody's skin?
Bob Stauffer put it well the other day, referencing Nugent-Hopkins as a fine young player but somebody who wouldn't say "crap" if his mouth was full of it. I've got a feeling that won’t be the case with Yakupov, and it says here a little confidence worn on the sleeve is not only welcome, but a necessary change-up.
Successful teams need a mix of skill-sets and players willing and capable of taking on different roles. They also, in the name of balance, need a mix of personalities and characters – quiet guys, thoughtful types, holler guys and balls-out types. This team has had too much of the former and not enough of the latter in recent seasons. Now comes Nail.
If Yakupov talks the talk and can walk the walk, filling our notebooks as well as the net (I recall Rob Schremp having the first part down pat but coming up miserably short on results), there's nothing not to like, whether you call him confident or cocky. Wednesday, we get a glimpse of what's to come.
Walk the walk, kid. Strut and all.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.