Nail Yakupov to be scratched again


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

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The Player

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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

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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.

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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.

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    • Ducey

      I agree 100% , coach s taking a hard line approach with one guy. Think of the free passes ebs and hall got in their first two years. This guy is getting no chances……….

      How could he not be producing playing 6 minutes a night with gadzic ,the only thing owrse would be putting him with belanger lol

      • Rick Stroppel

        So Eberle and Hall got “free passes” in their first two years did they? Please look back in their careers and see if they did the following over a forty game period, half a season, in the NHL:

        (1) Fourteen points.

        (2) One (Two?) even strength goals.

        (3) Minus 25.

        (4) Publicly says he doesn’t like to play defence.

        (5) Allows his agent to come to town and gripe. Rather like the parent in Pee Wee hockey who complains to coach that Sonny Boy is not getting enough ice time.

        Yakupov is not being singled out. He deserves everything he is getting.

  • Dan the Man

    I don’t really have a big problem with Yakupov being scratched. He hasn’t been good enough on most nights. I just wish Sam Gagner was held to the same level of accountability. I know it’s tough to scratch him right now with Arcobello hurt but what about the rest of the season?

  • Slapshot

    Eakins is an idiot,

    “I need him to score” how in the hell will he score with 6 minutes of ice on the 4th line.

    If I here him say fitness level once more ill puke look what fitness level has got us last in the west.

  • **

    Yakupov is going to end up asking for a trade, sent to a contender, end up having a great career, meanwhile the Oilers will still be bottom five for the next 4 years. Eakins is not going to take this team anywhere.

    • A-Mc

      Yakupov will likely never get sent to a contender. Contenders roll four responsible lines. With responsible people. Yakupov is not a responsible player. In fact very irresponsible.

      The biggest problem Yakupov has, along with numerous posters here, is, he’s nowhere near as good as he, or you believes he is. Another Tyler Seguin. Wants to be “the star”. Good competitive teams don’t care who gets the points. They play to win as a team. If they are trying to build a team here, and I do believe they are, he don’t fit right now.

      I also believe he’s heading back to the KHL if he doesn’t get treated as the baby he is.

      I am not a big fan of Eakins, but I am a supporter of this move. Keep him out for a few games. If he still hasen’t decided to play a team game, move his ass. We need people who believe in competing as a group.

      Make that bold move. If you can find a partener to dance with.

      • **

        Whether your work a drill press, or play pro hockey, you want to be treated fairly by your employer. Some of us see that there are others who are equally worthy of having a seat in popcorn row.

        Yakupov uprooted his whole family to come to NA. Unless he has no other choice, he isn’t going to the KHL.

        I am worried we are going down the same path that the Oilers went down with Miro Satan, amongst others, except Yak is a better player than Miro.

  • **

    There are 5 other guys on the ice every time Yakupov is burned for a chance against. How come it is only his bad play that sticks out to the coach?. On a contending team Yakupov would be used for what he is, a goal scoring forward. There would be a good goalie, 2 soild defencemen, a responsible 2 way center, and another great forward. Yakupov would eventually get decent enough defensively. But on a sinking ship, it’s hard to learn to swim when all your shipmates are going down with the ship.

    • mikedub

      Sure Yak would probably be a better player on a contending team, most of the Oilers would. They would be utilized to compliment their skill sets or sent down to the minors to fully develop into the player the organization wants them to be. The Oilers management obviously doesn’t roll like that. He’s barely surpassed a full nhl season, I say, you want to teach him how to play better defensively? Put him out there with Gordon in those situations. What do the Oilers have to lose? More games? They already do that with or without him in the press box. he’s not going to learn anything sitting up there all pissed off. We had patience with the other kids and still have it with Gagner. Let him learn while playing.

  • Arius Mumin

    Coach Eakins, is this a revenge on Yak for being out spoken? I see some other players who should be scratched before Yak. For instance, Sam, jr Shultz , Ebe, so on…..

  • How does a player who makes 4.8 million and has several mistake filled games never has to ride the pine? A twenty year old who has less then 1 season under his belt and can actually shot the puck will be sitting out for the third time. This is completely mind boggling. I guess that is why we sit in the sewer hole at 29th