YAK CITY: WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY

Robin Brownlee
October 09 2013 09:14PM

Three games into the 2013-14 NHL season, the Edmonton Oilers have scored 10 goals and Nail Yakupov, who led the team with 17 red light celebrations as a rookie last season, doesn’t have any of them. Problem?

I think not, and for a lot of reasons, but then I wasn't expecting Yakupov to simply pick up where he left off at the end of last season, when he padded his stats with six goals – more than one-third of his total -- in Edmonton's final three games.

That ridiculously hot three games – he scored the half-dozen on 13 shots – didn't have me projecting him for 30 or 35 goals this time around (I pegged him for 25 goals in an earlier item) and these first three mostly so-so games don’t have me thinking in terms of a sophomore slump.

Streakiness, lack of consistency and big swings between the best efforts and the worst are very common with young players, and Yakupov, who just turned 20, is simply another example. He's had some good shifts. He's had some bad shifts. He's had a lot of mediocre shifts. It's been three games.

For context, it should be noted that Yakupov went three games or more without a goal on four different occasions in 48 games last season, including stretches of 16 games and nine games without an over-the-top celebration.

UP AND DOWN

Yakupov's been playing about 16 minutes a night, mostly on a line with Boyd Gordon and Ryan Smyth. He's been credited with six shots on goal, which actually represents a slight increase in his shot output of last season, when he had 81 shots through the shortened 48-game campaign.

Yakupov's shooting percentage as a rookie was 21.0 per cent, making him one of just five players in the league who clicked at 20 per cent or better while playing 40-or-more games.

"He’s shown some flashes of excellence. He’s had a couple of dark periods, as well,” head coach Dallas Eakins said today. "That’s not uncommon, though, for a player of his age.

"The more experienced a player the more level, even-keel they play every night. The more inexperienced the player, the more ups and downs from game to game and from shift to shift. He’s trying to find himself.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do with Yak, but he’s got so much upside. Boy, when he grabs that puck, everyone leans forward on their seat. He got a fair bit of ice-time in the third period against the Devils, about nine minutes, almost half the period. He’s OK."

THREE DOWN, 79 TO GO

Eakins is right, of course. While coaches love consistency in their players because it makes their lives infinitely easier, expecting it from a youngster like Yakupov isn't realistic. That doesn't mean Yakupov shouldn't strive to tighten up the gaps between his best and worst shifts, but it takes time.

If Yakupov goes out against the Montreal Canadiens at Rexall Place Thursday and pots a couple, consternation about his bagel through three games will no doubt turn, at least in some corners, to about how Yak City is back on track score the 40 goals so-and-so predicted.

When the droughts and hot streaks are done, I'm still thinking 25.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 K_Mart
October 10 2013, 07:20AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Yes! Absolutely you play Yakupov more then Hemsky!

Hemsky is gone!! Why don't you get Yakupov playing important minutes now?

Yakupov needs to play more, period, he needs those minutes more. He's not learning jack playing with Gordan & Smyth.

Hemsky has been one of, if not the, best oilers forwards so far. Sure Yak would likely have more success offensively with more icetime and better linemates, but we're trying to win here. Until Yak starts to outplay Hemsky, which could happen tonight, Eakins should keep doing what he's doing. Besides, 16.6 minutes a night and some pp time is still indicative of top six minutes.

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#52 K_Mart
October 10 2013, 07:28AM
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Hall has our worst forward so far but he's always been a slow starter for us(even last season). He has a larger track record than Yak as well. IMO, right now when they are all at the top of their games, Ebs, yak, and Hemsky are pretty even. Not to say that won't change. But my money has the three of them finishing the season with similar minutes/game played. In the 17-21/game range. They will all have time on the 1st,2nd,and 3rd line.

Also, never read into Eakins' lineup before a game. If last game was any indication of his habits, then many of those combinations might not make it through the first period.

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#53 Avatarget
October 10 2013, 07:28AM
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@Oilers Coffey

Yak should play with RNH. At least it needs to be tried. A finisher with a playmaker is a tried and true recipe for success. The other experiment that needs to happen is Eberle at center. He is weak along the boards but has the skillset to thrive in the middle. C'mon Dallas, give it a try. He will do better than Hall did at the position.

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#54 Leef O'Golin
October 10 2013, 08:20AM
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Tomorrow at this time people will be arguing about whether Yak should have toned down his goal celebrations.

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#55 Staypuft
October 10 2013, 08:27AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Yes! Absolutely you play Yakupov more then Hemsky!

Hemsky is gone!! Why don't you get Yakupov playing important minutes now?

Yakupov needs to play more, period, he needs those minutes more. He's not learning jack playing with Gordan & Smyth.

See this attitude has been the Oilers' problem for too long.

"Play the kids because they need the experience! Who cares about the vets because they'll be gone soon!"

The problem is, relying on a bunch of kids won't get you wins in this league. It doesn't happen. You play the guys that are a)performing the best and b)have been there before.

Your attitude will get Yak more points (leverage for a higher contract) and will hurt the team on the ice as well (he's not playing great). Doesn't sound too smart.

I also have no idea how playing more = learning more. What do you learn with 19 minutes a game that you can't with 16?

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#56 Aitch
October 10 2013, 08:47AM
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"Yakupov's been playing about 16 minutes a night, mostly on a line with Boyd Gordon and Ryan Smyth."

I know Smyth-bashing has become the favourite past time of most Oilfans these days, but I'm not sure we can blame Yak's lack of production on Smyth. Didn't Smyth line up next to Hall and Hemsky in the first two games and next to Orville Redenbacher against the Devils?

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#57 Walter Sobchak
October 10 2013, 10:48AM
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Staypuft wrote:

See this attitude has been the Oilers' problem for too long.

"Play the kids because they need the experience! Who cares about the vets because they'll be gone soon!"

The problem is, relying on a bunch of kids won't get you wins in this league. It doesn't happen. You play the guys that are a)performing the best and b)have been there before.

Your attitude will get Yak more points (leverage for a higher contract) and will hurt the team on the ice as well (he's not playing great). Doesn't sound too smart.

I also have no idea how playing more = learning more. What do you learn with 19 minutes a game that you can't with 16?

So how does one get more experience playing in tougher assignments?

What difference if it's this year or next? At some point Yakupov has to experience the tougher assignments, is it better to do so with Hemsky here or Hemsky gone?

Seems Hemsky can at least help until he's gone.

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#58 pkam
October 10 2013, 11:19AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Yakupov out played Hemsky all last year, given quality of players to play with, if you give Yakupov Hemskys line mates he would soon out play Hemsky.

Hemsky won't be here next year, it's time the kid has to step up and learn to play Hemskys position the right way.

Hemsky has been playing 2 of his 3 games with Hall as centre and Smyth on the other wing.

Is that what you want for Yak this year, a centre filled in from the wing and Smyth on the other side?

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#59 Staypuft
October 10 2013, 11:41AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

So how does one get more experience playing in tougher assignments?

What difference if it's this year or next? At some point Yakupov has to experience the tougher assignments, is it better to do so with Hemsky here or Hemsky gone?

Seems Hemsky can at least help until he's gone.

The difference between whether it's this year or next, is I'd prefer to see the team challenge for a playoff spot this year rather than play under-experienced guys AGAIN and get hammered all season long.

When is the coach allowed to just try and win games instead of trying to baby our rookies into the lineup to get them "experience" for a playoff run that could never happen?

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#60 A-Mc
October 10 2013, 12:25PM
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Holy Christ, it's only 3 games in people; I'm shocked by the level of desperation already.

Yakcity will Yakattack soon enough, don't you worry! There's Only Been 3 Games!

ps: My gf thinks i made up Yakcity or Yakattack in a lame attempt to be funny.. Little does she know that even sports writers use these terms. #GOilers #YAKCITY

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#61 tileguy
October 10 2013, 12:58PM
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Hemsky's 2013 stats 72 Gp 24G 41A = 65pts

4th higest point total on the team.

kills penalties

2nd unit PP QB

Resigns for 3.5M for 2 more years.

Yesssssssssssssss!

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#62 Walter Sobchak
October 10 2013, 03:04PM
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pkam wrote:

Hemsky has been playing 2 of his 3 games with Hall as centre and Smyth on the other wing.

Is that what you want for Yak this year, a centre filled in from the wing and Smyth on the other side?

This argument makes no sense, no offense, but there is a reason Hall- Hemsky & Smyth are no longer a line, so putting Yakupov there is irrelevant.

However, they seem fit to put Yakupov on a line with Smyth & Gordon? That's the problem.

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#63 Walter Sobchak
October 10 2013, 03:11PM
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Staypuft wrote:

The difference between whether it's this year or next, is I'd prefer to see the team challenge for a playoff spot this year rather than play under-experienced guys AGAIN and get hammered all season long.

When is the coach allowed to just try and win games instead of trying to baby our rookies into the lineup to get them "experience" for a playoff run that could never happen?

Last year they were challenging for a playoff spot with Hemsky on the third line.

With Gagner Paajarvi Yakupov making the "second line" playing easy minutes, with that being a valuable year for Yakupov, why you wouldn't continue that is beyond me.

I would argue that Gordon-Hemsky playing tougher minutes would benifit the Oilers more this year then having Yakupov playing easier minutes?

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#64 Walter Sobchak
October 10 2013, 03:17PM
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tileguy wrote:

Hemsky's 2013 stats 72 Gp 24G 41A = 65pts

4th higest point total on the team.

kills penalties

2nd unit PP QB

Resigns for 3.5M for 2 more years.

Yesssssssssssssss!

This is non-sense.

Hemsky has scored over 60+ points 3 times.

As soon as Gagner is back he will be the QB on the second PP unit.

Would you resign with a team that wanted to trade you all summer for a reduced rate?

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#65 pkam
October 10 2013, 05:04PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

This argument makes no sense, no offense, but there is a reason Hall- Hemsky & Smyth are no longer a line, so putting Yakupov there is irrelevant.

However, they seem fit to put Yakupov on a line with Smyth & Gordon? That's the problem.

You said the coach gives the chances to Hemsky which should be given to Yak.

So far we have played 3 games. In first 2 games, Hemsky was playing with Hall and Smyth. Acrobello centered Eberle and Perron. And Gordon centered Yak and Joensuu.

You said we should replace Hemsky with Yak, so I put Yak with Hall and Smyth. Can you tell me what does not make sense?

The last game Smyth was the healthy scratch so I don't know how the coach could put Yak on a line with Smyth and Gordon when Smyth was sitting in the press box.

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#66 nick
October 12 2013, 09:04AM
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I just read an article about Yak possible being a scratch. Are you kidding me?? If this happens little Hitler (Eakins) should be fired on the spot. He plays Eberle 26 minutes a game and his compete level is about the lowest on the team. When the going gets tough Eberle gets going away from the tough areas. Bench him for a few games and give Yak some of those cream puff minutes.

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