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.

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 Loyal Oil
November 11 2013, 09:10PM
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Kevin Lowe is the author of this complete mess. If the #1's start leaving town these last eight years are a complete waste. Why don't the MSM media types or even the ON writers unequivocally call for his termination/resignation? Why doesn't Willis write a piece comparing Lowe's playoff success rate since being the big boss (GM/POHO) against his peers? K Lowe was a great Oiler player. He has failed as GM/POHO. He and McT need to go and actual NHL management needs to be brought in. Taking the BOTB pics out of the dressing room wasn't the problem, they need to be cleared out of the boardroom.

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#52 Gongshow
November 12 2013, 12:50AM
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We could get a King's ransom for Hall right about now. If he's the root of the problem. Just sayin ...

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#53 Big Cap
November 12 2013, 05:33AM
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My Question is:

Just how bad and desperate does it have to get around here before our Leader of Leaders, comes out of his cave to address this mess?

Everyone can see we are falling apart at the seams. Fans are turning on the team, and on each other. We are the laughing stock of the entire league, once again. Management has yet to even address any of the problems we are facing this year, let alone make amends to change it. If you count trading a 3-4 D-man who loved playing for this team and demonstrated it every night with his toughness and commitment by trading him for 2 prospects that’s clearly not it.

How dysfunctional will things have to get before Katz makes just ONE public statement let alone management changes.

Do we even trust this management group to find the "right" trade should we have to deal one of our young guns? They only have one shot, and I personally think they are scared stiff.

It’s a shame that we see owners like Ed Snider disgusted publically about the performance of his beloved team and vows things will be changed and better. Meanwhile our owner, Katz is lounging around in his Vancouver penthouse enjoying a Long John & Double Double refusing to put his devoted fans minds at ease by saying anything of reassurance .

This Organization is a Complete Joke!

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#54 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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#55 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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#56 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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#57 Robin Brownlee
November 11 2013, 09:28PM
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Eddie Shore wrote:

Yakupov is not free from blame regarding his defensive play. I will concede he has not always been put in a position to succeed this year. However, the one thing he can control is his effort and it has not been great a lot of nights.

If his response to being challenged to play better is asking for a trade, then farewell young Nail.

I thought Yakupov played one of his better games in Chicago and I was puzzled why he played so little after his goal.

That said, it's a quantum (and ridiculous) leap to think the Oilers would draft a player first overall and then set out to screw him over for no reason in his second season after a very good rookie campaign. And this "because he's Russian" bit is just a reach.

Yakupov hasn't been good enough. He has lots of company in that regard, but when he's told what's expected of him defensively and he essentially says he's not really into putting that much energy into that part of the game, is he doing anything to win the confidence of the coach? I think not.

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#58 RbabsYEG
November 11 2013, 10:07PM
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BigBurgers wrote:

Agreed. While Hall and Eberle are talented players, their sense of entitlement is probably amazingly large for being part of the worst team in the league. Anyone who's seen them cruising around on Whyte after games can attest to this. Guess they can't afford to be late to the party. Ever since the core veterans of years past left, Hall and Eberle have likely been constantly told by higher-ups that the team belongs to them. Guess they took that advice in strides. It's no secret that they're shunning Yak.

He is also a huge threat to their ice time. He should be a first line pp guy. It's in their interest to get rid of him. For their own reason. Not the teams.

Yak will get traded. I hope he does and he does well. Sad to say, but it's how I feel. All his stuff on the oiler auction goes higher than anyone else on the team. He's a fan favorite.

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#59 Oiler Al
November 11 2013, 11:19PM
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You want to break up the clan, Eberle or Hall to Nashville for Seth Jones.

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#60 MessyEH!
November 12 2013, 01:44AM
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I never thought about Yak not fitting into the dressing room. Remember how much we loved this kid for his bravado . I am not seeing that confidence or swagger anymore. Youthful enthusiasm has effectively been crushed.

Could he be being made an outcast due to his religious beliefs. No drinking, prayers, and lives with his parents. Yes, Nail Flanders just may not fit in with all the Homers and Barts on the roster.

On a secondary note. I remember Lisa Simpson being one hell of a goalie. Maybe the Oilers should be scouting her.

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#61 Walter Sobchak
November 12 2013, 10:50AM
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Six rings takes a seat on the couch last night, takes out his ring chest and cleaner to shine up his collection and take in the NHL HHOF awards last.

Six rings mumbles something while the awards ceremony is taking place.....I know something about winning....

Suddenly Shannahan a hall of famer, In his exception speech calls Tom Renney one of the best coach's he ever had, one of the most influential people he has ever know and Detroit is better for having you.

Lowe starts the slow sob..........but I know about winning......once we trade Yakupov it will all be better....

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#62 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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#63 DrunkGuyTy
November 12 2013, 06:10AM
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Wow - has this ever gotten everyone in a frenzy! The gossip, and catty-ness on here sounds like bunch of junior high school girls. Somehow an obscure and stock comment by an agent to a 2nd tier reporter about Yak has turned into Hall and Ebs being a couple of b!tches that have poisoned the dressing room.

Please. Listen to yourselves.

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#64 Eulers
November 12 2013, 07:07AM
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Yak is my favourite player precisely because of his attitude and dedication to the team. He and the team will get better if we ride out the current mess. If the Oilers trade both him and Smid, I'm through with his team.

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#65 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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#66 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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#67 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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#68 nrXic
November 11 2013, 09:31PM
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@Robin Brownlee

I want to see if people see the situation the same way I do, because I could be completely wrong and I'm open to that.

This year, Yak seemed to be a different player to me. Something changed in his game and it was very obvious to me, and I want to see if anyone else saw the same.

Late last year, he demonstrated a scary (for the opponents) forecheck. He kept his feet moving and attacked the opponent causing a rushed pass or a turnover. He was even hitting more last year, finishing his checks and at least bumping into guys. He was more assertive away from the puck, attacking the puck carrier and getting involved in the play.

This year, he's been far more hesitant and reactive without the puck. He skates up to the player and tries to anticipate the play, with the opponent ultimately passing it off untouched. In cases, it looks like he's watching the play as if he was a spectator. Some people see him struggling defensively, I see him struggling away from the puck in any zone where the opponents have the puck.

I don't know if I want to spend $170 on Center Ice and spend hours of combing over footage to prove my point, so I'm wondering if anyone agrees or disagrees with this. I really think he isn't himself as a player and he needs to find that player that was focused and aggressive late last year.

I'm just mentioning this so our criticism is a bit more constructive and understandable.

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#69 Numenius
November 11 2013, 09:58PM
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BigBurgers wrote:

Agreed. While Hall and Eberle are talented players, their sense of entitlement is probably amazingly large for being part of the worst team in the league. Anyone who's seen them cruising around on Whyte after games can attest to this. Guess they can't afford to be late to the party. Ever since the core veterans of years past left, Hall and Eberle have likely been constantly told by higher-ups that the team belongs to them. Guess they took that advice in strides. It's no secret that they're shunning Yak.

If this is true, my enthusiasm for this team will take a big hit.

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#70 mlcselli
November 12 2013, 12:36AM
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Remember when Eakins first addressed the media saying that he will coach a team but treat the players as individuals? He didn't want players being distracted. He would talk to a guy at the water cooler or sit down and have a coffee with someone. Obviously, just like the rest of his own horn blowing, about how committed a coach he will be, this seems like something else that he failed to do. My perception of Eakins is changing to that of the proverbial used car salesman.

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#71 Hockey Problems
November 12 2013, 01:16AM
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Yakupov just might have the highest offensive ceiling of all the kids. The setting "must be" right for him to be moved. When all rational thought fails ... Enter Oiler management. Bold moves. Maybe Yak can find himself in Bryz's universe. KLowe, MacT, and coach Eakins need a slap to the head... Enter Igor Larionov.

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#72 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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#73 Robin Brownlee
November 11 2013, 10:27PM
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Next chapter in this Yakupov bit is likely to unfold Wednesday. I expect that will be the day Larionov will be in Edmonton.

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#74 lenny
November 11 2013, 11:02PM
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BleedOil4Life wrote:

Have you ever thought that maybe its because he is not really trying to buy in to the new system like the others??

The others get more ice because they have been playing in the nhl longer....yakupov has struggled so bad so thats why he does not play. I hope that with how he snapped in chicago he now is awake and starts to play better both ways.

oh and "playing hockey since 1963 and watching since 82' doesnt mean anything in any aspect....we are talking about the nhl.

Well, let me see who else played like that in his second year? Hall? Eberle? Hopkins? Remember? How were they treated, I don't remember Hall playing on the 4th line do you? Was Eberle benched last year when Yakupov scored 17 and Eberle next to nothing? I was talking NHL Edmonton Oilers what did you think I was talking about- Oilkings?

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#75 Gongshow
November 12 2013, 01:32AM
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Give the "brain trust " a smack for us fans, Igor !!!

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#76 Hockey Problems
November 12 2013, 01:53AM
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Gongshow wrote:

We could get a King's ransom for Hall right about now. If he's the root of the problem. Just sayin ...

We would most definitely get the greatest return if we dealt Hall.

Blasphemy, I know.

But this ship needs to be righted.

At any cost ?!?

Shall I consider the panic button officially pushed ?!?

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#77 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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#78 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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#79 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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#80 OilCanFan
November 11 2013, 10:15PM
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Hockey fan 1976 wrote:

I hope when he gets here and meets with these clowns and demands a trade immediately to another team and while he's at it maybe give them a piece of his mind on how to properly manage a hockey team and a potential all-star.

You think the entitled management would really listen to someone who who doesn't have 6 rings?

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#81 Gongshow
November 12 2013, 01:41AM
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I said... "IF"... And smoking is bad for your health.

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#82 Hockey Problems
November 12 2013, 10:52AM
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What a soap opera. Is there anybody else out there in Oilerland getting tired of all the Oiler none sense. I guess anything to draw attention away from the most talented group of perennial losers that couldn't find their own asses, with a map.

"Never mind. Head blows up in frustration".

Take Gags back to arbitration. Ask for 2 mil a year back.

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#83 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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#84 Reality Check to the head
November 11 2013, 09:06PM
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there is one problem with having the number one pick 3 years in a row. There is real pressure to ensure you get the best player...not exactly the one we need in the organization. I think the oilers felt they had to draft Yak, but may have preferred to have Grags or a big Dman with pic number 2 or below as deemed as an organizational need.

Just a thought.

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#85 6 ring circus
November 11 2013, 09:13PM
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IF Larionov wants him traded and the Oiler's don't comply,the big threat here is clear. A return to Russia and the KHL.

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#86 Hockey fan 1976
November 11 2013, 10:11PM
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ubermiguel wrote:

All this talk of a locker room that looks like it's being run by junior high school girls gets me thinking: maybe Larionov coming here is a good thing. When Igor Larionov flies halfway across the world to tell Lowe, Katz and MacT to get their $#!% together that's got to carry some weight.

Lowetide had a nice article on "The Professor" almost exactly a year ago here.

I hope when he gets here and meets with these clowns and demands a trade immediately to another team and while he's at it maybe give them a piece of his mind on how to properly manage a hockey team and a potential all-star.

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#87 Bongshow
November 12 2013, 10:38AM
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It is only fitting that Yak gets moved. He'll go on to score consecutive 50 goal seasons, the Oil will still be in rebuild mode and the fans will be like " WTF?!! This team is the biggest joke in the history of hockey. At least a Yak trade would give me a new team to cheer for cuz this team just can't seem to figure it out. Oh ya, how have the Oilers done under King Hall ?!? The Oil should trade his ass and then watch the team gel. I don't condone drug use, but after watching 4 seasons of Oiler garbage... I can totally understand !

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#88 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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#89 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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#90 Eddie Shore
November 11 2013, 09:13PM
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Yakupov is not free from blame regarding his defensive play. I will concede he has not always been put in a position to succeed this year. However, the one thing he can control is his effort and it has not been great a lot of nights.

If his response to being challenged to play better is asking for a trade, then farewell young Nail.

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#91 #ThereGoesTheOilers
November 11 2013, 09:26PM
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At this point, as long as we get someone substantial back and the player leaving isn't named Hall or Nugent-Hopkins, I really don't care who gets traded.

I wish I wasn't so disillusioned, but there it is. To say this past month has been disappointing is a gross understatment.

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#92 sizzay
November 12 2013, 08:50AM
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Here's a thought:

Instead of worrying about the 20 year old rookie who has played under 70 games, why don't we try and trade the 7 year veteran Sam Gagner.

We know Gagner's upside, it's 45 points. We know that he is not a strong skater which makes it difficult to play a 200 ft game. We know he won't become taller and can only put so much more weight on. Cut the ties.

Sam Gagner + 1st rounder this year likely gets you a pretty damn good 2nd line centre. Or if we want to remain with Arco as our centre on the 2nd line, trade Gagner and the pick for a top 4 dman.

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#93 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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#94 nick
November 11 2013, 09:35PM
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This whole circus is getting so embarrassing it is amazing. Neither MacT or Lowe have any idea how to run an organization. They are wrecking the rebuild and it is worse than anything the Islanders pulled off in their disgraceful period. First they let go Smid now wrecking Yakupov. People need to start staying away from Rexall and Maybe Katz will pay attention then. Signed an Ex Oiler support and to embarrassed to watch this disaster

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#95 James
November 11 2013, 10:18PM
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@Stack Pad Save

I guess you can feel how you want, but off ice antics matter. Just ask Tyler Seguin. You don't even have to go that far, just ask Bryz. People were worried about him being a headcase when he signed here. Bad attitudes catch, and we have enough issues on this team as it is without people feeling like they aren't part of the team.

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#96 6 ring circus
November 11 2013, 10:18PM
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ubermiguel wrote:

All this talk of a locker room that looks like it's being run by junior high school girls gets me thinking: maybe Larionov coming here is a good thing. When Igor Larionov flies halfway across the world to tell Lowe, Katz and MacT to get their $#!% together that's got to carry some weight.

Lowetide had a nice article on "The Professor" almost exactly a year ago here.

I would love to have Larinov call in a favor and show up with Scotty Bowman,Stan Bowman and Norm Maciver, maybe they could talk to Katz and leave Maciver behind, he would be a great president of hockey operations,he's been working as the assistant Gm in Chicago the past few years and apprenticing under the Bowmans,now that's a group that knows a thing or two about building a winner,they forget more in a day than Kevin Lowe knows in all his time in management.

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#97 Hauk15
November 11 2013, 10:59PM
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DCC wrote:

What has happened to the Yakupov who oozed unbridled enthusiasm, the ear to ear grin, the deliriously happy goal celebration?

There is something putrid, something insidious and rotten at the core of this organization. It's quite alarming.

Hall and Eberle hate Russians. They turned the team on him. I hope he does get traded, he deserves better than to bullied by "adults". Hopefully we can get a real defense-man back. P.S MacT please send him to the east so we only have to get lit up by him twice a year. Thanks.

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#98 MessyEH!
November 12 2013, 01:52AM
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Gongshow wrote:

We could get a King's ransom for Hall right about now. If he's the root of the problem. Just sayin ...

Bongshow may be onto something here. I still think 14 is the wonder kid to trade. But would Hall bring in that much more than Eberle.

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#99 DSF
November 11 2013, 09:03PM
Trash it!
15
trashes
+1
16
props
Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

The number of "reputable" people in sports media to misquote, mishear, misunderstand, rely on bad intel, take out of context, etc. is pretty damn large.

Print and correct later.

We've been down this road a million times.

If you have decided to turn your skepticism device off on sports reporting, I congratulate your credulity and would like to introduce you to some nice entry level positions in foreign dictatorships.

One would assume you will wear this scarlet letter when you are once again proven to be a windbag.

Custance has far more credibility than you do.

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#100 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
November 12 2013, 11:04AM
Trash it!
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+1
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rob wrote:

yaks plus a 2nd round for Coutourier!

puff puff pass good sir. not puff puff puff until your brain seizes.

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