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.

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.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Nuge&Connorvs.Sam&Sean

    A little surprised given that the team is out of the playoff running already. I’d stick Yak on a line with Gordon and Smyth. Let those two take them under their wings and give him feedback on any shift where his performance or positioning is left wanting.

    Gordon-Smyth-Hemsky has been a very good line as of late and I’d hate to break them up, but like I said, we’re not playing for the playoffs anymore. Developing Yak should be the priority. I guess you could argue this will teach him accountability. But you could make that argument that some of the other young guns need that lesson too.

    • Dan the Man

      Yak did play with Gordon for a bit but the problem with that is Eakins likes to use Gordon for a most of the D zone draws and against tough competition which would be a huge problem with Yakupov on his wing.

      • Dan the Man

        True that regarding Gordon. But I think that’s the best way for Yak to learn the defensive side of the game. Play him in those situations with guys that know what they’re doing. I’m confident Yak’s offence will come around once he’s mastered the basics. He definitely won’t score if he’s being benched.

        I think we can also do some things to make Hall and Eberle more complete players. I think the turnovers have declined quite dramatically from earlier in the year, but they could be better on the backcheck.

  • 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.

  • **

    Eakins lost the team with the double standards and he lost this fan as well.The arrogance he portrays is obvious and I cant stand looking at him on the bench.Last game Smyth played 10 more minutes than Yakupov,give the kid a chance to prove himself.Eakins ego seems to be more important than giving Yak the opportunity to succeed.Way to drive down the players value if they were going to trade him,wich I hope for Yaks sake they do.I work with a guy who feels the Oilers ruin young players and I have disagreed with him but as this crap carries on he may be right.Eakins got to this point coaching in the AHL where 90% of his team would never be good enough to make the NHL and here he is dumping on a kid who was the 1st overall in the entire draft.I know the koolaid consumers with trash this post and I could give 2 sh!ts if they do, but has Eakins made any of the kids better players so far this season?

    • Serious Gord

      I’m feeling the same way. Well put.

      And since we are out of the playoffs – why are we wasting valuable ice time on Smyth when he won’t be part of this team’s future?

    • 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!!!!

  • Rob...

    I’m getting really sick of quotes from a coach who either lacks sincerity or calls it like he sees it but is completely delusional.

    Our power play is a joke, our penalty killing is weak, just about every player we put on the ice is making turnover gaffs, but hey, why not go with a single whipping boy… that way you don’t ‘lose the room’.

    • Ducey

      He has been playing better but he still looks lost in the neutral zone a lot.

      He just kind of glides around. We heard about his speed in junior, but how often do you see it?

      There is not a lot of back checking, shot blocking, going to dirty areas, etc.

      With that shot he should bet trying to get off 3 or 4 more shots a game.

      The question that should be asked is why isn’t he getting farmed to OKC. A month dominating down there might do him a world of good.

  • A-Mc

    I dont understand the love that so many of you have for Yakupov.

    Here are a few little fun facts:

    1. The higher up the roster a player is, the tougher the competition is going to be for that player – GENERALLY SPEAKING. ex) Nuge plays much tougher competition than Lander or Acton.

    2. Even on the 3rd or 4th line, Yakupov’s line is being outplayed. read: Outplayed vs weak competition.

    3. When Yak is put into the top 6, those lines don’t perform as well. Also, he continues to fail to produce even with the good line mates.

    Yakupov is a microcosm for our entire team. The Oilers have high offensive potential but they can’t seem to figure out their defensive game. High Risk. This style of play is clearly enabling us to be picking top 5 for the 4th time in 5 years at the draft. The Oilers will move up the standings when they start playing better defensive hockey; Yakupov will move up the lines when he starts playing better defensive hockey.

    Until then, both the Oilers and Yakupov will be bottom feeders. It’s time to break the bad habits and it certainly looks like Eakin’s is trying to do that. GJ Coach, keep it going.

    • Arius Mumin

      Most oppositions 4th lines are way better than Oilers 3rd line, and sometimes even the 2nd.

      When you are playing on the worst line on the worst NHL team: what exactly is a sheltered minute?

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        So what you’re saying is that the only real way to shelter him is to send to the AHL for awhile so he can get way more minutes, learn the defensive side of the game and gain some confidence….I think you’re on to something there!

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            You need to pay a little more attention yourself there Arius….I was playing a little trick on you there….putting words in your mouth….read it a couple of more times…let me know when you get it…..then we can move on.

          • Arius Mumin

            I’m not a baby or a woman, if there is anything going into my mouth it is because I really want it there.

            If I want people trying to trick me: I’d go listen to a Eakins press conference.

      • A-Mc

        Even so, the competition is still easier on the 3/4 line as opposed to 1/2. Even if the Oilers’ 3rd line was more like a teams 5th forward line (if there were such a thing), it still doesnt change the fact that Yakupov is failing vs competition that is weaker than the competition he’d face if he were in the top 6.

    • **

      YOur first point is just plain uninformed. Gordon plays the tough minutes. Comparing Nuge with Lander or Yak is like comparing Potter with Shea Webber or Ryan Sutter.

      Second point, again, misinformed, because, again, Gordon plays third line.

      Third point, difficult to asses on black and white. Yakupov played on those lines sometimes against tougher teams where none of his line mates did scrap. Goaltending was also horrible during some of those games, so don’t blame it on Yakupov alone.

      Next time please learn the difference between fact and opinion

      • A-Mc

        Nuge vs Lander was comparing the quality of competition they face, which obviously is much different. That was the Point, but you missed it. If Yak was with Nuge, he’d face much harder opposition than if he was with Lander.

        The whole Gordon portion of what you’re saying doesn’t really matter. The normal mode of operation is that lines are matched and therefore, the 1st and 2nd lines are seeing tougher competition than the 3rd and 4th lines.

        I was going to type up a nice long factual post with real numbers and everything, to refute your response, but in the end it isn’t worth it. What i said IS fact and also some Opinion.

        Obviously I’m not too far off base because the coach seems to think Yak isn’t doing so well either.

  • 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.

  • Arius Mumin

    Eakins is a joke.

    I wish one of those females with microphones in front of him had a set of testicles to actually ask a real question. I would really like to know more about this earned ice time and acountability Eakins speaks of, but everything has to be taken at face value and never questioned.

    I am not an idiot and I do not believe Yak and Igor to be. I hope Yak demands a trade, get traded for the lowest possible value, then grows to be an elite on an actual NHL team and haunts Eakins corny ass for the rest of his corny career.

  • BC BOY


    When you look at Yakupov’s line being outshot over and over, especially last year, did you ever look who his center was most of the season? Gagner.

    Gagner is a shots-against sieve this year, and was even worse last year when – IMO – he was blatantly cheating for points.

    What are Yak’s non-Gagner results like, do you know?

  • **

    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 .

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    I have no problem with Yak getting benched, he needs to be better. My problem is with Eakins’ definition of things like ‘accountability’ and ‘earn your time’.

    Example 1: Gagner; example 1a: Joensuu.

  • 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.

  • **

    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..

  • A-Mc

    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?

  • Serious Gord

    As Johnathon alludes to – would yak thrive under a different coach?

    I would further that question to: has any player played better under Eakins than they did under Krueger?

    Gordon and Perrons performance don’t count as they were playing under very differnent circumstances last years and thus are difficult to compare.

    • **

      I think you’re full of s%$t 90% of the time, but that other 10% like this comment is always solid.

      Krueger should’ve got the benefit of a full season. Forget Yakupov for a moment, the PP and PK were elite under Krueger and they are in the sewer now under Eakins, even with a better (at least on paper) roster and the benefit of a full pre season.

  • Nuge&Connorvs.Sam&Sean

    Thank god we scratched Yakupov. Might as well ship him out now for more toughness and guys who try really really hard but are ultimately useless like Luke Gazdic!!!

  • 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.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    I feel for Yaks but the bottom line is that he is not fit enough!

    When he runs those stairs at Rexall after the games, he is using a body double. For those fans that think Yaks has been singled out for his poor play……..remember when Hemsky use to be the turnover machine? I think that Mac T told him to smarten up and look where he is now.

    Yaks needs to produce more with less ……….and hit and fight to boot. When he has learned all this then he should become more fit and learn how to compete better…… the rest of the team.

  • Nuge&Connorvs.Sam&Sean

    And the first first overall pick out of town is: #64!!

    Good luck signing the other Russians. But, alas, I am just a center ice fan, so what do i know??

  • bazmagoo

    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!

  • 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.