YAKUPOV: LAST IN, FIRST OUT?

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.

  • 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 !

  • 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….

  • Hockey Problems 101

    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.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Just finished reding some of the comments. Very good blog. So Yak is open to a trade eh? What the hell happened?

    When Yakupov was drafted in 2012, I tought his energy was a breath of fresh air for this organization. I also tought the firing of Tambellini was a step in the right direction.

    First order of business for new GM MacT was to show the front-office was no longer run by a bunch of jerks (remember the Souray fiasco?) So firing Ralf Krueger by Skype was not an ideal first move. But then, instead of doing a serious search for a new coach, KLow and MacT just jumped on the offseason’s hot commodity.

    I should give credit where credit is due, I think the draft went pretty well, with Nurse, Yakimov and Greg Chase. Except they didn’t draft any goalie. But I should’ve guess it would be a long season when MacT did nothing to adress the black hole that was the center position after the Gagner injury. But no, I was still optimistic.

    After 10 games or so, like most fans I was realizing something was very wrong with the Oilers organization. The top of the pyramid is rotten.

    Did Yak City talk to his agent out of self-entitlement? Maybe. Or did he just realize how bleak the futur was with the current organization? Most likely. And I’ll tell you what, he is not the only “young gun” who is not a happy camper. Tell me nothing is wrong with Gagner and Eberle…

    It is time for Katz to act now. He can pretend nothing is wrong and let MacT and KLow adress the situation, or he can clean house. Now is the time. Get a new regime in time to evaluate their staff before the trade deadline. The playoffs are not happening this year anyway. Convince Yakupov – and the fans – that there is change and there is hope.

    Believe me, it can get worse. Just ask any fan of the Detroit Lions how bad it can get when the top of a franchise is rotten (try an 0 – 16 season). Act now before Yak (and others) officially demand a trade.

    Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong.

  • @ pkam
    Maybe you missed the part where i said “I’m being sarcastic here”. I’m really just having a laugh at the people who say our 1st overall pics are busts, and we should trade them for god knows what, somehow thinking a bust of a first rounder will get them Shea Weber in return. For the record, i think Hall & RNH are legitimate top line NHL players. Yakupov probably won’t ever be the kind of player who can go up against the other teams top line regularly and not be a minus player. His best work will be done feasting on the oppositions weaker lines. Personally, i wouldn’t trade any of them. I would trade gagner, but i know he has no value on the trade market these days. All I’m saying is people can’t complain about how useless edmonton’s players are, then expect to get the solution to all the oilers problems in a trade. I was also trying to say, if people think this organization is so bad at drafting players (based on their ascertation that our current crop of 1st overalls are busts) why would they expect anything different in next years draft, and how would trading the useless sam gagner & what would likely be a bust of a draft pick ever be considered overpayment for a proven useful nhl level player? That’s all…either the oilers have good players, and have drafted well, and one of those players can be traded for something of need, or they dont have good players, haven’t drafted well, and can’t trade their way out of irrelevence and mediocrity.

    • IIRC – Brent Sutter got a team full of cast offs to the Eastern conference final twice.

      He then left there to be closer to home for family reasons, where again taking a team full of players well past there due date to 2nd in the North division, while not in the playoffs still better then the Oilers and better then expected.

      He’s won at every level he’s coached and he’s also a career coach, not someone who coached for four years and was given an NHL job……after winning SFA.

      Brent Sutter should have been hired prior to Kruger.

      That’s the long & short of it.

      • pkam

        I just google NHL playoff 2008 and 2009. Devils lost to Rangers 4-1 in 1st round in 2008. And they lost to Caroline 4-3 in 1st round in 2009. He has not won 1 NHL playoff series yet.

        Will we do better or worse with him as HC? You can speculate all you want but the fact is nobody really knows.

        • True, however Sutter actually won his division, he won 45 games one year and 51 the next with a group of cast offs, it’s actually pretty impressive considering the Oilers will be lucky to get 55 points this year….

          I’m going out on a limb and saying the Oilers would do much, much better then they are now with Sutter.

      • Andy7190

        The Flames looked lost their first 18 months under B. Sutter. They didn’t play the system and sort of sputtered along partly due to age, and partly due to the fact the team wasn’t right for Sutter’s style. By the time they started playing his system, any kind of window in the Iginla/Kiprusoff era had slammed shut.

        I don’t know if Brent Sutter could help the Oilers in their current configuration, but he probably wouldn’t hurt. Remember, Brent and Darryl coach different systems. LA is still playing the same way Calgary, and San Jose did under Darryl, where as Brent is more of an East Coast trap/defense coach. Seems to me Iginla never bought in.

        • Iginla score 32 & 43 goals under Sutter 86 points and 67 points respectively, I also believe Kipper enjoyed very good years as well.

          Sutter didn’t have the roster due to management of the cap & player asset management, if you recall two games Sutter had to use 17 players.

          Its all speculation but I’m convinced you go with experience as a head coach.

    • Brent Sutter certainly was not the reason why Calgary was not doing so well. Calgary was holding off on a rebuild that was long over due, and everyone except their ownership knew it. So he was stuck with older complacent players, but he had them just outside of the playoffs anyways. The GM and ownership have to be willing to supply the coach with the right players, in order for the coach and team to be successful. Calgary has done worst since Brent Sutter has been gone. Brent Sutter comes with a wealth of coaching experience from coaching in the NHL, WHL, World Juniors and the World championships. Also remember that his brother had never won a cup as a coach or GM also, but the LA Kings are sure looking good since he took over that team.

      • Andy7190

        Calgary has done worse since Sutter has been gone, but not from an effort or style standpoint.

        Since Sutter has been turfed, the Flames traded Iginla, Bouwmeester & Tanguay, lost Kiprusoff to retirement and gone all in on a youth movement. Currently playing without Stempniak, Glencross, Stajan and one other vet whose name escapes me (edit: Giordano, no small absence) .

        From a work ethic and all-in mentality, I don’t think there is any doubt Bob Hartley is the right coach at the right time for that club.

        As for Darryl, he coached an entirely different style than Brent, which is partly why they had a pretty poisonous relationship at the end of Darryl’s Flames tenure.

        As for Brent Sutter, had the Flames lost Kiprusoff 3 years earlier, they’d have had results like the Oilers are having right now. He single handedly kept them in the hunt, and covered a whole lot of deficiencies. If the Oilers had a goalie like that now, they’d probably have at least 5 or six more wins. #34 made Brent Sutter look a whole lot better than he was.

        • I am not sure if you agree or disagree with me. As you point out the Flames have gotten rid of some players who were not giving 100 percent anymore. And now have a much harder working team, and with that, they are all of four points ahead of the Oilers. I am not saying that Bob Hartley is a bad coach and he would probably be better than the coach that we have. But Hartley has an NHL job and Brent Sutter has a very good coaching pedigree and is not in the NHL. Remember Ken Hitchcock had few rough coaching jobs between Dallas and St. Louis, but he has his team doing pretty well now. And St. Louis did not look so good before Hitch took over.

          • Andy7190

            I just think the jury is still out on Brent Sutter as a success in the NHL. Bob Hartley is a proven success, though not with the Flames so far, except to say his team has bought in.

            No, my point is Brent is more suited to the Junior game, like Dale Hunter. You can’t coach pro players the same way you coach kids. Eakins might be in the same type of boat. NHL is different than AHL.

            Your point is fair, but I watched a lot of Flames games in the Brent Sutter era, and I still think Keenan would have had that team in the playoffs at least once more. Darryl was to blame also as he spent too heavilly on defence at the time (Regher, Phaneuf, Bouwmeester) and never did find a centre for Iginla. The irony of course is he gets traded and the Flames draft a centre…

            I suspect if the Oilers start getting average to good, and sometimes great NHL goaltending instead of the ECHL product they’ve been getting, we will better understand their true level of strengths and coaching. But right now, that team is playing as if the roof is going to cave in at any moment.

  • pkam

    Trading Yakupov would seem outlandish to most functioning organizations. But to the Oilers this would be a new route to take as a team that constantly seeks young superstars is now willing to swap them on a whim for any chance of possibly attaining another 1st overall pick in the hopes that the next will be slightly better than his predeccesor. Instead of addressing obvious issues (i.e total lack of sanity within ownership and management alike) they will continue to find new ways to scapegoat their mediocrity and rely on a fan base that has become so accustomed to failure that they will continue to support this floundering organziation until all the present day staff is long retired to there Boca Raton villas only to leave this disaster in the hands of the next brainwashed trust that will relish on the fact the team had success 2 + decades ago. For the proud “city of champions” it’s sad that people are still willing to fund this trainwreck. One can only hope that eventually common sense and pride will bring fans to stop attending and hopelessly praying for success in the not so *distant future.

    * = Never

  • Andy7190

    People are making comments about Yakupov not wanting, or playing well with 4th line minutes. The problem as I see it is essentially the same as Monahan with Calgary. Feaster (Burke) told Bob Hartley if Monahan was going to stay with the big club, he had to play top six minutes. Because Monahan isn’t a bottom 6 pick. Neither is Yakupov – he is much too talented, and much too high a pedigree player for the checking line. Yakupov should be either in the top six in EDM or the top three on the farm. He isn’t going to develop otherwise.

    Flames did the same thing with Max Reinhart, if he couldn’t crack the top six, down he went. We’ll see how the Flames rebuild goes, but I do think there is something to their theory on this.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      MacT failed to get rid of Hemsky like he did Horcoff after throwing both under the bus. with Hemsky gone, it would have opened up a RW spot for Nail to play behind Eberle.

      • Andy7190

        True, there either has to be room for Nail in the top six or he has to flat out earn the top six. But I can’t see either his development or his trade value going well in the bottom six. So, play him in the top six, and coach him up. Coaching him down certainly isn’t working.

        The long and short of it is that Nail Yakupov is not a back checker. He is almost pure scorer. Obviously a different skill set than Monahan, but still.

  • smiliegirl15

    If Yak wants more ice time, then play like you deserve it! There have been too many times we’ve seen him give up. He is the LAST person who should be giving up the puck.

    Robin – hope all of your family is safe and sound in the Phillipines.