Nail Yakupov to be scratched again

Jonathan Willis
December 30 2013 12:34PM

 

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins announced this morning that Nail Yakupov will be a healthy scratch against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

The Player

Nail Yakupov hasn’t been good enough this season.

His stats line shows that (39GP – 6G – 8A – 14PTS, minus-25), and the fact that he’s getting badly outplayed in the most sheltered minutes available is a real problem. The plus/minus exaggerates things (last year at five-on-five Yakupov’s on-ice save percentage was 0.923; this year it’s 0.868, and one would need to be delusional to think those numbers accurately reflect the state of Yakupov’s defensive game in those two seasons) but he’s been getting out-shot and out-chanced despite getting primarily offensive zone time.

He remains a phenomenally talented player, the guy who led both his team and all NHL rookies in goal-scoring last season. He’s fast and aggressive and has a shot that is already one of the best in the game. But he needs to dramatically improve his overall play to be a useful NHL’er.

The Coach

Dallas Eakins, understandably, feels that Yakupov needs to be better if he’s going to earn more ice-time, and that he can’t just keep gifting him with minutes if the results aren’t there.

“You’ve got to earn it,” he says in the video above. “You have to do a number of things on the ice every day. Every day. It can never change. We cannot give things to people. You have to earn them.”

Eakins further said he’d spoken to Yakupov for “40 to 45 minutes” about the scratch, and that he and the player had a “definite plan moving forward.”

Naturally, the coach is going to take some criticism for the scratch, as he took some criticism for sticking Yakupov on the fourth line and slashing the player’s power play role. It’s impossible not to recognize the talent that the Oilers have in that player, and naturally fans want to see him placed in a position to succeed.

Eakins, though, seems clearly focused on the big picture. A scratch here or there isn’t a big deal; Yakupov’s performance this season isn’t even the primary problem. Yakupov is the kind of player who has the talent to play a pivotal role for the Oilers for the next decade or more. The problem Eakins faces is turning him into the best possible player for that next decade, and if that means making unpopular decisions in a season that (like so many others) was lost before the halfway mark, that’s what it means.

Yakupov entered the NHL and had instant chemistry with his first head coach, Ralph Krueger. His enthusiasm was obvious and infectious and a bright point in an otherwise unmemorable season. But it’s worth remembering it for what it was – that despite Yakupov’s point totals, his line was out-shot game-in and game-out, and that all too often he seemed to be floating around on the ice with no clear idea of where he was supposed to be.

Perhaps Krueger would have been able to correct that with time, or perhaps not. Now the responsibility falls to Eakins. Improving Yakupov’s game might be the single most important thing Eakins does this season as Edmonton’s coach, and given that he’s previously compared Yakupov’s problems to the early struggles of people like Steven Stamkos and Joe Thornton it’s a good bet he knows it.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 jack
December 30 2013, 09:31PM
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when is eakins going to be a scratch

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#102 RexHolez
December 30 2013, 09:31PM
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Think I'll sit out the next one too

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#103 gus1000
December 30 2013, 09:55PM
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Does anyone remember how Claude Giroux started the season? He went 21 games without a goal. Does anyone remember what he did last year? He was a scoring machine. Does anyone remember how many minutes he spent on the 4th line? Me neither. Most likely none. Why? His coach knows what the player can do, and what his job is. And just because he was snake bit, it didn't mean he should be the 4th line guy.

The moral of my out to lunch story is, good players have doldrums. Giroux was not signed to block shots, play on the fourth line, and kill penalties. The Oilers did not spend a 1st overall pick on a fourth line plug. Putting hm there to learn a two way game with guys who either are barely in the league, or shouldn't be here at all, is pointless. He isn't learning what he needs to learn. Eakins is trying to kill the skill on this club. The goal differential is worse this year than last year when we played no defense. Why is that?? Because he doesn't understand his players.

Get Yak up front with at least one competent player to skate with, pass the puck to, and receive passes from. Now leave him there. The kid is walking on egg shells every game knowing the coach has this notion to send him to the pine with one tiny mistake. As mentioned by another post, Hall and Eberle made half a dozen doozys a night. They learned from it.

Father time is retiring, give those damn minutes to the kid we want to have for another decade. His plus minus argument is a joke due to various reasons, look at Eberle as an example. His is brutal, but -6 is from empty net goals. Pretty sure that makes the stat a little useless when discussing overall play. Yak has his moments, don't get me wrong, but on the right time, given a little leeway, he should get 30 a season.

Half of this roster has earned time off in the press box, yet only one guy seems to consistently get shipped up there. I think the coach is poor at best. Our special teams are worse this year and our goal differential is worse. His judgement to me seems extremely cloudy at this point.

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#104 Cynic
December 30 2013, 10:28PM
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Since the Oilers are going to miss the playoffs anyway, GF/GA differential is irrelevant. So run thr thoroughbreds out there and entertain the fans. Who cares if you lose 8-3 some nights. You might win a couple along the way, too. If I had to pay to watch former No. 1 picks learn to be NHL grinders I'd jump in front of the LRT. The world of sports is so vast, so diverse, and often entertaining. Why waste time on a dull, perennially disappointing doormat of a hockey team?

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#105 bazmagoo
December 30 2013, 10:33PM
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Eakins is trying to install a MacT brand of hockey into the Oilers, and we all know how effective that was during MacT's coaching reign. Outside of a lucky trade for Roloson and subsequent cup run, what did MacT ever accomplish with his style? MacT and Eakins - two 4th line grinders trying to teach the current breed of NHL elite talent to play their style of hockey - ridiculous. All you 1st tier fans, please stop going to the games. 2nd tier fans, get your Oilers fix from illegal internet streams. Stop feeding the incompetence!

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#106 Woogie63
December 31 2013, 12:06AM
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Who has has improved as player during the first half of the season under Eakins? Maybe Perron? +20 players are going backwards or sideways.

Who improved under Kruger? Hall, Yak, Eberle, N. Schultz, Dubynk, Gagner

Who improvec under Renney? Hall, Eberle, Potter, Whitney, Dubynk

Who are we handing on to as the coach?

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#107 justDOit
December 31 2013, 01:22AM
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Yak scratch fever...

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#108 @Oilanderp
December 31 2013, 02:03AM
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Hockey parents are annoying.

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#109 mlselli
December 31 2013, 04:32AM
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What is good for the goose should be good for the Gagner. When does Sammy get his date in the press box? He's been a disaster.

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#110 pelhem grenville
December 31 2013, 05:47AM
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...imagine if Yakapov played with a team like the San Jose Sharks ...

...and we had Couture and Niemi

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#111 pelhem grenville
December 31 2013, 05:49AM
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...and why doesn't he wear ten yet?

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#112 thefoz
December 31 2013, 08:23AM
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Some of the pro-benching comments on here are quite laughable.

"He's not that good! He's another Tyler Seguin!" 37 points in 36 games and +12, first line NHL centre Tyler Seguin you mean? The Tyler Seguin who had to be traded and given an opportunity to flourish to find that level of production?

I both hope and fear that Yakupov is another Tyler Seguin.

I understand the sentiment that, because the season is lost already, thinking long term about Yak's growth is paramount. That said, I don't think benching him and only him while his peers also struggle mightily is helping him grow. He needs to be allowed to make mistakes like his teammates before him were, and he needs to be put into a position to succeed. And no, playing with the Gazdics and Landers of the NHL (also, how sad is it that that's a thing?) doesn't qualify. I feel for the kid, he's clearly falling victim to a double standard IMO.

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#113 j
December 31 2013, 08:42AM
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gus1000 wrote:

Does anyone remember how Claude Giroux started the season? He went 21 games without a goal. Does anyone remember what he did last year? He was a scoring machine. Does anyone remember how many minutes he spent on the 4th line? Me neither. Most likely none. Why? His coach knows what the player can do, and what his job is. And just because he was snake bit, it didn't mean he should be the 4th line guy.

The moral of my out to lunch story is, good players have doldrums. Giroux was not signed to block shots, play on the fourth line, and kill penalties. The Oilers did not spend a 1st overall pick on a fourth line plug. Putting hm there to learn a two way game with guys who either are barely in the league, or shouldn't be here at all, is pointless. He isn't learning what he needs to learn. Eakins is trying to kill the skill on this club. The goal differential is worse this year than last year when we played no defense. Why is that?? Because he doesn't understand his players.

Get Yak up front with at least one competent player to skate with, pass the puck to, and receive passes from. Now leave him there. The kid is walking on egg shells every game knowing the coach has this notion to send him to the pine with one tiny mistake. As mentioned by another post, Hall and Eberle made half a dozen doozys a night. They learned from it.

Father time is retiring, give those damn minutes to the kid we want to have for another decade. His plus minus argument is a joke due to various reasons, look at Eberle as an example. His is brutal, but -6 is from empty net goals. Pretty sure that makes the stat a little useless when discussing overall play. Yak has his moments, don't get me wrong, but on the right time, given a little leeway, he should get 30 a season.

Half of this roster has earned time off in the press box, yet only one guy seems to consistently get shipped up there. I think the coach is poor at best. Our special teams are worse this year and our goal differential is worse. His judgement to me seems extremely cloudy at this point.

The reason Yak is sitting is exactly the reason many of the other young Oilers should be sitting - they don't know how to play a 200 ft game. Gagner, Hall and Eberle were given too much rope when they entered the league and the result is we are second last in the NHL. To suggest we should do the same with Yak is ludicrous. These are critical, teachable moments with Yak - we should be fully supporting this approach with the hope of a brighter future. As we have seen with Gagner, it isn't easy to change your game after 4-5-6 years. Showing Gagner 'tough love' at this stage in his career isn't going to have much impact. But with Yak, this is the perfect time to go back to the drawing board before he becomes (remains?) one dimensional. Any other strategy (i.e. play all the kids to speed development) runs completely counter to what we want to accomplish - long term stability and success.

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#114 howard burns
December 31 2013, 09:21AM
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@jack

YAKUPOV will be playing in the NHL long after Eakins is forgotten.........which will not be too long from now!!! With the talent that Yakupov has, a good coach will make him blossom, not use him as a scapegoat for his own incompetence!!!! Good bye Eakins.......the writing is on the wall!!!!

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#115 Step Daddy J
December 31 2013, 09:54AM
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bulldog12 wrote:

This is Alberta Canada We speak English here.

You've never been to Brooks Alberta ??

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#116 albertabeef
December 31 2013, 01:07PM
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If Yakapov was with the Detroit organization, he would be in Grand Rapids for 2 more years.

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#117 thefoz
December 31 2013, 01:55PM
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@albertabeef

Yakupov would never be in the Detroit Red Wings organization because they would never be in a position to draft the consensus best player on the planet.

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#118 DrDave
December 31 2013, 03:11PM
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thefoz wrote:

Yakupov would never be in the Detroit Red Wings organization because they would never be in a position to draft the consensus best player on the planet.

Unless we traded him for Jakob Kindl and Joakim Andersson....

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