YAKUPOV: LAST IN, FIRST OUT?

Robin Brownlee
November 11 2013 07:41PM

Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said just last week he isn’t trying to trade Nail Yakupov, but agent Igor Larionov has tongues wagging across the NHL today, saying his client is open to a trade. Anywhere is fine.

Two Tweets from the Twitter account of ESPN Magazine senior hockey writer Craig Custance are again fuelling speculation that the struggling Yakupov could be on the move out Edmonton just 65 games into his NHL career with the Oilers, who picked him first overall in 2012. Just after 6 p.m. Edmonton time, the following:

A couple of hours prior to that, just before 5 p.m., Custance posted:

So, according to Custance, a seasoned scribe not prone to passing along baseless hearsay or making things up, and in direct quotes, Yakupov is open to and OK with being traded by the Oilers and Larionov plans to swing into town for a sit-down with MacTavish and maybe coach Dallas Eakins to discuss how his client is being used. That about cover it?

Is that trouble with a capital T or entitlement with a capital E?

EARLY SPLIT OR HISSY FIT?

It's completely understandable why Yakupov wouldn't be anything close to happy right now. Aside from the Oilers being off to a horrid 4-13-2 start, Yakupov has struggled mightily through the first 17 games of his sophomore season.

After finishing his rookie season like a house on fire with five goals in his last two games and totals of 17-14-31 in 48 games, Yakupov has scored just 2-2-4 in 17 games this season. He's been a healthy scratch. He's been moved up and down the line-up by Eakins. He's got every reason to be frustrated.

Is that all this is? I'm not sure. Players struggling during a difficult stretch or through a frustrating set of circumstances – diminished ice time, offensive droughts -- will often vent to their agents. Sometimes, it's a one-off. Then, the puck goes in the net, as it did in Chicago Sunday. Ice time increases. The team starts to win again. Cooler heads prevail. It's not often the crux of those conversations is passed on to media types.

Now, this from Larionov about Yakupov, the third and last of three first overall picks over the past four seasons after Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Wasn't it, like, just six or eight weeks ago that Oiler fans and some media types were thinking out loud about how Yakupov's next contract might stack up to those inked by Hall, RNH and Jordan Eberle?

This, just after MacTavish went out of his way to stifle speculation the Oilers were shopping the talented 20-year-old Russian winger: "When we drafted Nail it was because we believed he’d be a dynamic, electric, exciting player and that hasn’t changed. We were not expecting him to become all that in the first 70 games of his career," he said.

"We very much believe Nail will evolve to become that dynamic, electric player — become one of the most entertaining guys in the game. I told that to Igor. And I told that to Yak. Development is very rarely a straight line. It has ups and downs."

SO, WHAT NEXT?

So, what to make of this? Whatever conclusion you draw, it's difficult for me to believe Larionov didn't know exactly what he was saying. I'm guessing he said it with the blessing of his client. Leverage? Sending a message? Or is something already broken that can't be fixed? I don't know.

While "open to a trade" doesn’t necessarily equate to "I want to be traded," it's just a degree or two short. Demanding a trade now, given how poorly he's played, would be the epitome of entitlement -- blaming everybody else but himself for the situation Yakupov finds himself in.

Whatever the case, and despite what MacTavish said last week, I'm guessing what Larionov said today will get MacT's cell phone ringing just as surely as it has people talking already. Stay tuned.

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

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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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#1 RexHolez
November 11 2013, 07:48PM
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Have fun finally playing on an NHL team Yak! You're my favorite of the 1's

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#2 Nimrod
November 11 2013, 07:50PM
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Between the media piling on the kid and the coach making an example of him at all times, while all the other players are immune, what do they expect?

Watch him being traded in a lopsided deal and flourish elsewhere.

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#3 BleedOil4Life
November 11 2013, 07:50PM
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He is not going anywhere

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#4 Captain Steve
November 11 2013, 07:51PM
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Heard rumors he doesn't get along with the guys in the room either for whatever reason. He super talented, somethings up this year though...either confidence or not fitting in

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#5 DSF
November 11 2013, 07:53PM
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The Alpha Dog is feeling threatened.

This won't end well.

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#6 DSF
November 11 2013, 07:56PM
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Andy Grabia ‏@agrabia

Can the Oilers make Larionov an offer while he's here? Even at 52, he's gotta be better than five or six guys they're currently dressing.

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#7 Taylor Gang
November 11 2013, 07:58PM
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I hope he doesn't get traded, but really who could blame him? This organization treats him like crap. Sure he isn't great defensively, but his main, most important job is to score goals, and how is he supposed to do that with his puny minutes? Everyone also overanalyzes everything he says, ESPECIALLY the media, to the point where he is almost being labelled an enemy of the state. This guy WILL be better than Eberle, he WILL score many goals in his career, and he WILL be a star in the league for years to come. Why pull the plug now?

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#8 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 07:58PM
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Russian hot shot scorers are very seldom worth the headaches. Ironically, Larionov is one of the few I would have on my team.

Mel Brooks, Larry David, and Carl Reiner combined couldn't write a comedy as gut-busting as watching the Oilers organization.

They traded my favourite Oiler player, Smid away for a bag of pucks. I mean, it's just total chaos.

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#9 RexHolez
November 11 2013, 08:00PM
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DSF wrote:

Andy Grabia ‏@agrabia

Can the Oilers make Larionov an offer while he's here? Even at 52, he's gotta be better than five or six guys they're currently dressing.

I'd like to see the entire Barons roster called up and playing. I'm guessing they'd stand a good chance of winning more than 4 in 20

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#10 doubleA34
November 11 2013, 08:03PM
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I'm surprised yaks the only one that wants off this sinking ship. Wouldn't be surprise if you hear other pieces of the fab 5 wanting out too.

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#11 James
November 11 2013, 08:03PM
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@Captain Steve

Too many cligues in the locker room? Something isn't right here, and it's not necessarily Yak, though his agent may not be doing him any favours by speaking out. There may be other people to consider here, there doesn't seem to be the comraderie with Yak as there is with the rest of the kids. You can see it in the games, some of them avoid him.

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#12 Taylor Gang
November 11 2013, 08:03PM
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Can we stop alienating Russian players and assume that they'll leave to the KHL? I doubt it's appreciated much by Russian players who are very much interested in staying here in North America, such as Yakupov.

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#13 GTL
November 11 2013, 08:03PM
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Here we go .... Another oileresk salary dump, with little return... ~face palm~

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#14 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:04PM
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Yakupov's "big personality" combined with the coach killers already in the Oiler dressing room....something has to give.

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#15 Taylor Gang
November 11 2013, 08:07PM
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GTL wrote:

Here we go .... Another oileresk salary dump, with little return... ~face palm~

Thank god it's not true. Right? 0_0

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#16 BleedOil4Life
November 11 2013, 08:08PM
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he will not be dealt

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#17 RexHolez
November 11 2013, 08:08PM
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Don't worry guys, in a couple years we'll have McDavid and whoever we draft with this years 1st overall. Maybe a couple losing years after that we'll get new assistant coaches, and a couple years later a capable president

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#18 Cyclops
November 11 2013, 08:09PM
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I hope Hall doesnt do this everytime get gets a one-timer. I truly think "right now" Eberle and Hemsky are better RW's. Yak has to quit making the puck a grenade on his stick, and he will see more ice. He coughs the puck up too much to be trusted right now.

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#19 Kirk Brakenberry
November 11 2013, 08:09PM
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Gong Show meets Let's make deal. Ahh the life of an oiler fan.

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#20 Jermiov
November 11 2013, 08:10PM
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For me, I feel the frustration of everyone on this and other Oiler sites. At this point in time, at least for me, the best case scenario is that Hemsky and Yak are packaged to a contending team, as they are my two favorite players. I would then be able to cheer for a new team while watching the Oilers develop or flounder. This is getting very frustrating hearing about how good we are playing night in and night out, meanwhile the losses keep coming. I say FMFN or some variation (FLFN or FEFN)! This is my first post, but I have read 99% of all articles since I found this site during the 2006 cup run. Whatever. I'm sure this post and all the other posts on these sites will fall on deaf ears, as they have for the past 5 years or so.

Signed Long time faithful fan, but at my wits end.

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#21 Harlie
November 11 2013, 08:11PM
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Waiting for Jasmine to pipe up and say that all of this is the fans fault.

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#22 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:11PM
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RexHolez wrote:

Don't worry guys, in a couple years we'll have McDavid and whoever we draft with this years 1st overall. Maybe a couple losing years after that we'll get new assistant coaches, and a couple years later a capable president

Yes, and after the Oilers trade Hall and Yakupov for a package of draft picks, there will be an exciting new core of youth!

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#23 D
November 11 2013, 08:11PM
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"Anywhere is fine." That's the big tell RB.

Also, I like the reference to supply chain / inventory management (LIFO).

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#24 Primo
November 11 2013, 08:13PM
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I think the Oiler fans have missed the point entirely. In the 2013 draft Yak would be a 10th over all at best. He is simply not ready for prime time. Another Gagne in the making...a young guy who needed further development at a young age but forced to play because his NHL team lacks depth.

Another sad story developing and potentially another ruined career. Gagne will never achieve his potential given his mis-management by the Oiler leadership.

The only solution to all of this is the immediate termination of 6 rings and bringing in a 'builder' who has not only hockey knowledge but demonstrated leadership and management of a pro hockey team.

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#25 Harlie
November 11 2013, 08:17PM
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DSF wrote:

The Alpha Dog is feeling threatened.

This won't end well.

Who, Ference?

Oh, you mean KLowe.

Katz?

Hall? Hemsky? Eakins??

Just what or who is our identity based around again??

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#26 Greasy Goal
November 11 2013, 08:20PM
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I can't see a deal being constructed here. MacT said he isn't going to move him and he's still yet to play a full 82 game season. A deal now would be fruitless. These guys need to work out their differences in the locker room(if as I read there are any) because it's a long road to the top. they cannot turn coat whenever something doesn't go their way.

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#27 DSF
November 11 2013, 08:20PM
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Harlie wrote:

Who, Ference?

Oh, you mean KLowe.

Katz?

Hall? Hemsky? Eakins??

Just what or who is our identity based around again??

Hall.

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#28 Big Cap
November 11 2013, 08:21PM
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Can't blame Yak for being frustrated. He's an elite scoring weapon. A competent coach would know how to effectively coach him and put him in situations to succeed.

Instead we have a big mouth, know it all, coach who has changed our effective PP and PK as well as our defensive system.

Yak has been shuffled around, embarrassed by being benched, and sat for back to back games.

This disaster is all on Eakins!!!

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#29 James
November 11 2013, 08:22PM
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Another poster wrote about an on ice confrontation between Hall and Yak prior to Hall's injury on the Sutherby thread. Does anyone remember this? I seem to recall some people talking about it on a game day thread for some reason, but I can't remember what happened exactly.

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#30 D'oh-ilers
November 11 2013, 08:23PM
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I think the rampant trade speculation is wearing on him. The coach says he's not going anywhere, yet 30 seconds later some media type or blogger is claiming the Oilers are in serious talks to trade him. The team sucking, and his early performance being poor, are likely just exacerbating the situation.

I don't think the team plans on trading him any time soon, but I do think he could benefit from some time in the AHL where he could regain his scoring touch, and his confidence. How he'd handle that would be difficult to say though.

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#31 6 ring circus
November 11 2013, 08:24PM
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Is anyone really surprised he want's out? I don't blame him one bit,MAYBE now Katz will finally get it ,that there's major problems and the lord of the ring's (k Lowe) needs to be shown the door, before the rest of the team join's Yak and want out to.

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#32 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 11 2013, 08:24PM
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Some context.

5 days ago Larionov was singing a very different tune:

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/11/06/oilers-gm-craig-mactavish-refutes-trade-rumours-surrounding-nail-yakupov

That series of public statements was brought on by some very public speculation.

Prior to that, also not long ago, we went through a different round of public hand wringing about Yak heading off to Russia:

http://lowetide.ca/blog/2013/10/oilers-at-capitals-g6-13-14.html

That didn't last long either.

Larionov/Yakupov could have lost their stuffing in the last 5 days and decided to vent publicly.

It's also possible something has been over-interpreted or misunderstood or simply made up.

The public story of Yakupov this season is more vexed than his on ice story. Don't jump to any conclusions just yet.

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#33 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:24PM
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Big Cap wrote:

Can't blame Yak for being frustrated. He's an elite scoring weapon. A competent coach would know how to effectively coach him and put him in situations to succeed.

Instead we have a big mouth, know it all, coach who has changed our effective PP and PK as well as our defensive system.

Yak has been shuffled around, embarrassed by being benched, and sat for back to back games.

This disaster is all on Eakins!!!

No, it's all on Fail's terrible, sub-NHL calibre play.

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#34 Harlie
November 11 2013, 08:26PM
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DSF wrote:

Hall.

Yet not a peep from him in the media. And no C on his chest. The word neuter comes to mind in this organization, should be nurture. Fire Lowe.

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#35 SlowTalker
November 11 2013, 08:27PM
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Primo wrote:

I think the Oiler fans have missed the point entirely. In the 2013 draft Yak would be a 10th over all at best. He is simply not ready for prime time. Another Gagne in the making...a young guy who needed further development at a young age but forced to play because his NHL team lacks depth.

Another sad story developing and potentially another ruined career. Gagne will never achieve his potential given his mis-management by the Oiler leadership.

The only solution to all of this is the immediate termination of 6 rings and bringing in a 'builder' who has not only hockey knowledge but demonstrated leadership and management of a pro hockey team.

You know that Simon Gagne plays for the Flyers right? How seriously should I take your opinion if you don't even know how to spell "Gagner"? Do you even watch the Oilers?

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#36 DSF
November 11 2013, 08:27PM
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Mark Spector ‏@SportsnetSpec 12m

RT @nielsonTSN1260: When I mention upcoming Oilers game at the Canadian Brewhouse tonight people are booing...that's where it's at now.

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#37 Big Cap
November 11 2013, 08:28PM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

No, it's all on Fail's terrible, sub-NHL calibre play.

Your right. Blame the 20 year old with less than 70 Pro games under his belt.

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#38 Harlie
November 11 2013, 08:29PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

Is it possible that someone from the Rangers or Flyers camp whispered something to Larionov that the Oil were shopping his client?

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#39 oilbaron
November 11 2013, 08:30PM
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Hearing rumors that there was a trade in the works with Philly , Simmons and coburn for Ederle and hemsky. Why wouldn't we do this trade? It would totally change the dynamic of the team, free up cap space and also give yakupov the ice time that he craves. I feel that we over value Ederle as a player and yakupov has a much higher top end.

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#40 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:31PM
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SlowTalker wrote:

You know that Simon Gagne plays for the Flyers right? How seriously should I take your opinion if you don't even know how to spell "Gagner"? Do you even watch the Oilers?

well, many people have other things in their lives besides oiler worship, and the spelling of player names is probably not of huge importance

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#41 elpolodiablo
November 11 2013, 08:31PM
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I see Eakins losing his job before Yakupov getting traded. If they had a winning record, then you can make a case that the coach wins in a face-off like this. They are losing and badly. Part of being a coach is getting the players to buy into your system and motivating them to play for you. This coach hasn't done that. If they were winning a ton of games and Yakupov was producing like he is currently then you could possibly make a case for trading him, but even then I wouldn't do it. George Burnett lasted 35 games with the oilers I think this is worse. Do you guys think Eakins will last longer ?

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#42 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:33PM
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Big Cap wrote:

Your right. Blame the 20 year old with less than 70 Pro games under his belt.

Then he should be in the AHL learning his trade. The NHL is for big boys. His play has been terrible therefore he hasn't earned further opportunities.

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#43 e n
November 11 2013, 08:34PM
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oilbaron wrote:

Hearing rumors that there was a trade in the works with Philly , Simmons and coburn for Ederle and hemsky. Why wouldn't we do this trade? It would totally change the dynamic of the team, free up cap space and also give yakupov the ice time that he craves. I feel that we over value Ederle as a player and yakupov has a much higher top end.

who's ederle?

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#44 Big Cap
November 11 2013, 08:35PM
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@ DSF

Do you have any insight on how Pavel Bure and his development was handled his first couple of years in Vancouver?

Im curious to know if they allowed him to be strictly an offensive specialist, or expected a complete player within the first few seasons. What about line mates? Was it new guys each night, or constant line mates.

I realize Bure shot his career out of a cannon with big offensive numbers right ff the bat, but obviously Yak seems most comparable to him with size, skill, and country.

Look forward to your take...

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#45 DSF
November 11 2013, 08:36PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Some context.

5 days ago Larionov was singing a very different tune:

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/11/06/oilers-gm-craig-mactavish-refutes-trade-rumours-surrounding-nail-yakupov

That series of public statements was brought on by some very public speculation.

Prior to that, also not long ago, we went through a different round of public hand wringing about Yak heading off to Russia:

http://lowetide.ca/blog/2013/10/oilers-at-capitals-g6-13-14.html

That didn't last long either.

Larionov/Yakupov could have lost their stuffing in the last 5 days and decided to vent publicly.

It's also possible something has been over-interpreted or misunderstood or simply made up.

The public story of Yakupov this season is more vexed than his on ice story. Don't jump to any conclusions just yet.

Craig Custance is about as reputable as you can get.

Suggesting this is "simply made up" is not only foolish but also slanderous.

I would imagine the crap hit the whirlybird when:

"He gave the Oilers the lead last night and was rewarded with 31 seconds of ice time over the final 11:05 of the period."

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#46 Reagan
November 11 2013, 08:38PM
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See ya... Should have drafted the center anyways...

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#47 madjam
November 11 2013, 08:38PM
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Trouble in Oilerville . First Smid and now perhaps Yak . Who will follow next ? Uninspiring New Gm and New Coach driving away viable NHL talents while retainng some that should have been gone . Loaded once again with AHL talents trying to perform at NHL level -it's not working obviously . Maybe they should be relieved first before entire team revolts any further ? Situational crisis needs Lowe and Katz to step in and restore players confidence in the team ? My question is who is going to replace them if such be the case ? Kreuger would settle things down in the interim .

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#48 DSF
November 11 2013, 08:39PM
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Big Cap wrote:

@ DSF

Do you have any insight on how Pavel Bure and his development was handled his first couple of years in Vancouver?

Im curious to know if they allowed him to be strictly an offensive specialist, or expected a complete player within the first few seasons. What about line mates? Was it new guys each night, or constant line mates.

I realize Bure shot his career out of a cannon with big offensive numbers right ff the bat, but obviously Yak seems most comparable to him with size, skill, and country.

Look forward to your take...

Sorry, I was in Edmonton at the time and not tuned in to the Bure situation.

It seems in retrospect that the issues involved were more about money than anything else.

Bure was a beauty right out of the chute.

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#49 Gaz
November 11 2013, 08:43PM
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DSF wrote:

The Alpha Dog is feeling threatened.

This won't end well.

What exactly are you implying here?

Lowe is A.D?

Hall is A.D? (based on your later post)

Please expand on your comment.

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#50 madjam
November 11 2013, 08:43PM
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Trouble in Oilerville . First Smid and now perhaps Yak . Who will follow next ? Uninspiring New Gm and New Coach driving away viable NHL talents while retainng some that should have been gone . Loaded once again with AHL talents trying to perform at NHL level -it's not working obviously . Maybe they should be relieved first before entire team revolts any further ? Situational crisis needs Lowe and Katz to step in and restore players confidence in the team ? My question is who is going to replace them if such be the case ? Kreuger would settle things down in the interim .

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