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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  • Arius Mumin

    I have no problem with Yakupov being benched if it is for long term development purposes. In the long run it should pay dividends. However, Gagner is a veteran centre. As a veteran and a centre he should be held even more accountable than a raw rookie. The problem is that I have seen him being gifted ice time rather than being held accountable. To me that is an injustice and is simply not fair to the team. Eakins needs to be perceived as fair or he will lose the room.

    • Arius Mumin

      Your right, but you can blame MacLooselips for that rather than Eakins, it’s coming from up top.

      I can’t stop laughing at the hilarity of the ON fangirls. They are now defending their new lover ‘Yaky’ with the same vigour they once had for Gagner and Hemsky. Yakupov is a terrible NHL player. Yes he has raw skill but he is a net liability.

      And now the same shrill hystericals who were orgasmic in their excitement over Eakins’ hiring have decided he is incarnate evil and responsible for the horrific play of Fail.

      Dallas better be careful. If he thought the tongue lashing from comrade Igor was bad, wait ’til he experiences the wraith of comrade mummy and comrade daddy.

  • bwar

    First,I like Yakupov.The upside on him has to be considered as huge.

    Yakupov has not played well.

    Yakupov would benefit greatly from some quality ice time in the minors in all types of situations in all types of game conditions.Winning,losing,power play, last minutes of games etc

    The argument that he may bolt for the KHL if sent to the minors is weak. If the kid wants to leave because he gets sent to the minors to improve his ability, then who cares if he leaves???? 20 year old rookies don’t get to make ultimatums to the teams that draft them, whether they are from Russia or Vegreville.

    I don’t believe he’d want to leave for the Motherland just because a trip to Oklahoma City for more ice time was prescribed for his over-all improvement.

    It is the job of the General Manager to make these decisions and then to convey these messages to players, especially young,struggling players.That means our leadership needs to lead.

    Please, MacT, I’m begging you…lead.

  • **

    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.

  • Newj

    Where’s MacTavish,Lowe & Howson in all this? Do they see the same as Eakins?

    For me this is as much about how MacT & Klowe & Howson might address these types of hockey operation issues. These are big considerations at stake here & I sure hope they don’t screw this up too.

    Yes Eakins make the call but its not with an approval from 1 of those those 3.

    I hope this works out as intended…sign me skeptical.

  • The only reason to treat a top prospect like this is if your team is very successful and you need the kid to catch up to the level of play everyone else is at, like Seguin in Boston. That is not at all the situation with the Oilers.

    We all remember Hall/Ebs and Nuge getting sheltered minutes, allowed to neglect defense to gain confidence in their offensive game. Yak is never going to get that time from the looks of it. So, what you end up with is an offensive talent that isn’t even sure he can score at this level anymore. All aspects of his game are going to struggle. Eventually he will turn it around I’m sure, but it’s going to take a lot longer than it should have, and the chances Yak will bolt as soon as he is UFA skyrocket because of this treatment he’s getting. Doubt we get to see Yak’s prime while he wears an Oilers uniform.

  • **

    That’s it..Bench him again.. cause it was alllll Yaks fault the TEAM did squat for the better part of 2 and a half periods vs philly and did the absolute minimum vs the flames… This word accountability is a bunch of horse sheet… there are other players to bench not just petry, smyth and yak…….why did we get rid of Fistric and brown and smid again?? grit toughness and a lil bit of nasty… ya we don’t need that at all… I have the Oilers logo and the nations logo on my truck……I really wish this team would get some friggin balls….and why is it that the coach says one thing and the team does nothing or the opposite?? I am really starting to wonder.. AND the I don’t care factor is starting to creep in.. I can handle baby steps but I cant stand regression..

  • **

    That’s it..Bench him again.. cause it was alllll Yaks fault the TEAM did squat for the better part of 2 and a half periods vs philly and did the absolute minimum vs the flames… This word accountability is a bunch of horse sheet… there are other players to bench not just petry, smyth and yak…….why did we get rid of Fistric and brown and smid again?? grit toughness and a lil bit of nasty… ya we don’t need that at all… I have the Oilers logo and the nations logo on my truck……I really wish this team would get some friggin balls….and why is it that the coach says one thing and the team does nothing or the opposite?? I am really starting to wonder.. AND the I don’t care factor is starting to creep in.. I can handle baby steps but I cant stand regression..

  • Newj

    This is getting me more pissed off the more I think about this!! Just when you think the bottom of the pathetic barrel has been reached you realize we have an AHL coach ruining the career and spirit of our beloved Yak!! I need to stop keeping tabs on this sad sack of misery

  • **

    إذا yakupov كان لها هذا الأداء نفسه تحت أي مدرب آخر في NHL تظن أنها سوف babying له، ونأمل أن يحصل على أفضل؟ أشك في ذلك.

    لا أرى لماذا الناس ينقط خارجا على بعض الحب القاسي للyakupov. وقال انه لن يصبح لاعبا أفضل من خلال وجود من السهل مسيرته بأكملها.

    وعلى الناس أن تكف عن الشكوى حول كيفية Gagner لا يحصل خدش. إيكنز يعرف رئيس عمال هو مشكوك في 2C هامشية ويعرف كيف موهوب وجيد yakupov هو ذلك عقد لهم نفس المستوى لا معنى له.

    • **

      @BC Bear:

      if yakupov was having this same performance under any other coach in the NHL do you think they would be babying him and hope that he gets better? Doubt it.

      Don’t see why people are freaking out over some tough love for yakupov. He’s not going to become a better player by having it easy his whole career.

      And people have to stop complaining about how Gagner doesn’t get scratched. Eakins knows Ganger is a questionable a marginal 2C and he knows how talented and good yakupov is so to hold them to the same standard doesn’t make sense.”

      Why do you repost in a different language?, are you one of those people who live half way accross the world and get paid to post comments online?, and you just forgot to translate your post?

  • 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

  • **

    We are all looking at this the wrong way. I just figured it out. Sitting Yak is the Oilers way of officially throwing the towel. “we might as well sit Yak, no need for him to get hurt, let’s keep him fresh for next season”.

    PS: I’m being sarcastic

  • Rick Stroppel

    (1) I know I have ragged on Eakins pretty good, but consider this. Some of us get to see the game in person. Some of us (like me) only get to see the game on TV, where all you see generally is the guy with the puck and two or three players around him. Eakins gets to see THE ENTIRE ICE SURFACE for every game and every practice. Eakins wants to win. The reason Yakupov is playing seven minutes is that Eakins believes they have a better chance to win when Yakupov is playing 7 minutes, not 20 minutes.
    (2) I agree a stint in the AHL may be a good idea BUT(a)apparently they were not able to teach Omark how to play defence down there, and (b) what if Yakupov totally lights it up against inferior competition, he may become even more convinced that the only thing he needs to worry about is offence.
    (3) Recently Yakupov publicly said something like, “I don’t like to backcheck, I don’t like to play without the puck”. Yeah, I know, language barrier. Did anybody (like Larionov) explain to him what those comments meant? Did Yakupov apologize or backtrack? Nope.
    (4) Yakupov is clearly involved in a war of wills with the coach. If you allow a player to win a war like this, your team is doomed.
    (5) Two words: “Alexandre Daigle” I am not saying this because I WANT this to happen. But if Yakuov refuses to listen he should be traded, and quickly, while he still has the cachet of a number one overall pick.

  • **

    This is so stupid it could make you cry.

    Hall is the turnover machine.

    Gagner is the I can’t find a man,

    Eberle is the what is this defence crap.

    Then we have the assistant coach who doesn’t like euros and the head coach who is just trying to save his job by listening to feedback from his cronies.

    We are ending up with Yak being Seguin or Nediereiter givin away for a song because we have no brains .

  • Arius Mumin

    If this team knew what the f..k they were doing , they would do the right thing and send this kid down to OKC!. If he is going to develop, he needs ice time and plenty of it.Playing 6 min. a game with some bozos is not development.

    Tell the Yak to put his ego aside, and invest some time in his hockey development, that is if he wants an NHL career.Other players went through that ordeal and turned into pretty good players. This is not a new idea.

    Unless the Oilers made a deal with the devil { Larianov] and promised to keep him with the big club.

  • Arius Mumin

    Under Krueger, Yakupov was -4 in 48 games and had 31 pts. Under Eakins, he’s -25 in 39 games and has 14 pts. Is there an Oiler from last year’s roster that has improved under the Eakins’ regime? They’ve all gone sideways or regressed. An exception would be RNH… but we all knew he would rebound.

  • Slapshot

    I don’t know why everyone things Ganger has gotten special treatment, he was on the fourth line for a game and half and was told if he broke another stick over the crossbar after he left his man open again he would have to pay for 1/2 of a new stick.

    In all seriousness I wonder if “Snowpants would have been left in the bottom six longer or had a reset if Arco would not of gotten hurt.
    It sure looks like no one who is paid over $4mil/year has a reset button.

  • Slapshot

    Maybe Eakins should watch a few games from the press box, maybe he would learn a thing or two, he sure hasn’t learned much from standing behind the bench.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    If Management is going to stand pat while this egotistic coach ruins the kid’s confidence, then they should’ve never drafted him in the first place.

    • Nuge&Connorvs.Sam&Sean

      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!!!!

  • gus1000

    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.