YAK CITY: WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY

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.

  • oilerjed

    Heres to Yak getting his SECOND against the Habs! Derrrrrrrrrrrrr

    Edit: Umm who do I have to thank for the edit? That would have to be his Fist would it not?!

  • The Last Big Bear

    When your relegated to turd line you play like a terd ? Why is Hemsky playing above him if he is the future and Hemsky unlikely to be here next year? Tomorrows game the Hobbits against the Termites ? Price against the Dubbinator . Oilers 8-2 in a blowout .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This is just Dallas Eakins lack of experience on display. How can he honestly say Yakupov has struggled more than Hall and Eberle have. Eakins created this mess himself by having Nail on the 3rd line and on the bench for 45 minutes against the Jets. May have cost them the 2 pts that night in fact.

    It’s little bonehead moves like Eakins made that night that will cost the Oilers games. Obviously the coaches are making their share of mistakes as well. Yakupov on the 3rd line and Ryan Smyth on the first……get ready for yet another new head coach next summer. Where does Lowe keep finding these guys…anyone know Laviolettes phone number? This battle won’t last long between Yak city and Eakins. The sooner Eakins lays off of him the longer Dallas will have work.

    Yak is so fluffy I could die….

      • 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.

          • Bi-Curious Gord

            Don’t be so sure he won’t be here in March . He seems more like an Eakins player than Yak or Eberle . If Yak gets 20 -25 goals most of us will be happy especially if his defensive game improves. We have a tough game against the Habs who lost to Calgary then a road trip . Right now I don’t care who scores lets just get some goals .

          • Hemsky term ends this year, the Oilers have zero cap space, so he won’t get resigned this year unless the Oilers dump 5 million.

            So you wait till the off season to hope to resign him at a hit that reflects his diminished role? Or he walks.

            Or do you offer the same over priced contract he has now at the end of the year?

            Sorry, but the most likely idea is he gets dealt at the trade deadline for a need.

            So play Yakupov in his spot and get Hemsky to mentor the young man till he’s gone.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • pkam

            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.

          • pkam

            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.

        • Aitch

          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.

          • pkam

            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?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Darn Tootin

        Hopkins between Hall and Yakupov. Eberle between Perron and Hemsky. Crisis averted tomorrow night.

        Then Yakupov can toss his hat trick puck at Eakins on the bench. If Eakins wants another Grabovsky/Carlyle situation, he best mention Yakupovs game has come along way in just one night, very soon.

  • What I don’t understand is why the double standard for Yakupov?

    We watch Hall who arguable cost the Oilers at least 4 goals directly relating to a bad give aways and just poor defensive plays.

    We watched Eberle & Schultz Jr have massive blunders.

    The Oilers play Smyth on the first line, in which he was completely out classed.

    I’m not saying Yakupov is not without fault, it seems that Eakins already has himself a fall guy.

    While the others can make costly game changing mistakes Yakupov doesn’t close down on his man fast enough he gets benched! Go figure!

    Meanwhile, the Oilers are playing the sh!t out of Hemsky on what should be Yakupov’s line, Hemsky has a great chance at not being here next year, doesn’t seem like good player management to me.

  • #ThereGoesTheOilers

    Who really cares what line he’s on?

    I just want to see us win for a change.

    If Yak has ups and downs, fine. I, for one, won’t complain about Hemsky getting x_amount of ice time if it means we have a better chance of success.

  • T__Bone88

    Eakins said that he wanted to surround Hall with veterans, so he surrounds him with the two vets that have struggled the most in the past three seasons..how about put the top goal scorer from the oilers last season on the wing?
    To much common sense?

  • Retsinnab5

    Eakins said that he wanted to surround Hall with veterans, so he surrounds him with the two vets that have struggled the most in the past three seasons..how about put the top goal scorer from the oilers last season on the wing?
    To much common sense?

  • Puritania

    Hopkins with perron and eberle/yakupov
    Gordon with hall and hemsky

    yakupov can develop some defensive skill ont the third line if they don’t want him on the top 2 lines. I think one thing our team has stuggled with and we are seeing is regardless of defensemen and our goaltending (which have improved each season) is our forwards defensive abilities. eberle and Hopkins and defensively smart ( I think theyd be even better playing less than 25 minutes…) hall looks lost and needs a wakeup call, he has looked good with hemsky and hemsky assisted him again Tuesday.

    hemsky has outplayed yack as far as 2 way play goes. if yack learns and gets that 2 way play solid we can see him as our feared gamechanger on the top line for the next 10 years.

    hemsky is gone at the deadline, plain and simple, he will bring back a top 2 dman. if u pot him in there with some prospects and a first rounder. personally id put Justin Shultz in there (don’t hate me) I think if we can get a number one defensemen it would replace shulz and his defensive blunder. poor Justin.

  • Oilers Coffey

    Yakupov on the 3rd line with who? Who’s going to give him a clean pass? Who can take a pass? Then again 64-27-6 were the best line of the opening night roster, than 64 sat benched??? That I still don’t understand.
    Right now I’d be rolling:
    1- 64-4-93
    2- 14-57-27
    3- 83-26-94
    4- unchanged.
    When Gags returns he slots in for Gordon.
    83 can push the play on his own for the third line. He’s done it for nearly a decade that he doesn’t use his line mates that effectively. (I am a 83 fan)
    I would just like to see what kinda flair we have in 3 #1 selections and their dynamics as a line!
    They were #1 each for their own reasons, and they’d match perfectly.
    93 the magician
    4 the bull
    64 the finish!
    Thoughts?

    • Avatarget

      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.

  • pkam

    For everyone complaining that Hemmer is getting a push when he might not be here past the trade deadline when YakCity is toiling on the third line…STOP! THINK….

    MacT was blunt about trying to trade Hemsky this off season. MacT was blunt about 29 other teams not valuing Ales as the Oliers do. Dallas Eakins strikes me as an intelligent guy who might realize that in order to drive up the value of an asset you might have to showcase him a little bit.

    I am ok with Eakins playing Hemmer in a top six role with cushy zone starts and letting him play PK and PP too. It showcases Hemsky as a versatile professional who can still produce, and it just might mean that come the trade deadline, teams in a playoff hunt may come knocking with offers. In a salary cap NHL, the GM and Coach can both sell other teams on the value of their teams “trade bait”

    All that being said, Nail has had an opportunity to light it up against weaker opposition (albeit with ‘weaker’ line mates) and so far hasn’t. It’s only been three games though and I think that 79 games is plenty of time to pot 30 or so goals.

    Cheers!

  • 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.

  • Yak played primarily with Hall and Gagner last year during his scoring runs.

    Gordon and Smyth ain’t gonna cut it.

    IMO, Eakins is giving him less icetime and lesser linemates for a reason. To show Yak that you have to work for icetime, not give up on the puck when it’s in the D-zone and nothing comes easy.

    He’ll be a better player for it, and I expect him to pile up the numbers in the second half of the season.

  • Aitch

    “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?

  • A-Mc

    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

  • A-Mc

    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!

  • pkam

    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.

  • pkam

    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.