Dallas Eakins Is Doing Nail Yakupov A Favor

Nail Yakupov will not be playing tonight. He is a healthy scratch. I understand and agree with what the Oilers head coach is doing with him.

Yakupov has an offensive skill that is impressive for a young player. Defensively he is not as impressive. In the NHL today you need to be able to play in both ends of the rink. It is clear that Eakins does not trust him at all to play even average while defending.

I have seen Yakupov fly by opponents on defensive zone draws. I have seen him show very little interest in back checking. He has blown the defensive zone when the Oilers did not have clear possession. The list is long as to mistakes he has made. It all adds up to a terrible plus/minus. I don’t always give that stat much respect but I do in Yakupov’s case because I have watched him play all season.

That is the bad news.

The good news is these are all very fixable flaws in Yakupov’s game. The big "IF" is does he have a willingness to pay attention to these details? Can he develop an understanding of what his responsibilities are on defensive zone draw – coverage and getting the puck out on the wall? Does he want to back check to put back pressure on attackers? Can he learn to read rushes against while he is back checking to understand who he should take?

This isn’t rocket science. He must WANT to learn and to do it.

Eakins is doing Yakupov a favour by trying to instill this in his game at this point in his career. Better to learn now then to try and retrain him in five years. There have been some tense moments between the two and there will be many more. Once Yakupov accepts what Eakins wants from him the learning curve defensively will be sharp and swift.

I get asked often if Yakupov will ask for a trade to a team that appreciates him for what he is, an offensively gifted player. Sure it is possible. I can’t say it won’t happen. I do know that if he gets traded the grass will not be greener there. Any coach and organization that wants to win will soon understand that this young player needs to learn to play a better defensive game.

In my opinion it is best that Yakupov learns these lessons now and with the Oilers. Trust me, if he were to go to another team so or later the same issues will need to be addressed.

I have also been asked why it seems Yakupov has been singled out? Why aren’t other forwards getting the same treatment? Should Yakupov be upset that other guys aren’t being say out?

Yakupov has his own issues with part of his game. He shouldn’t worry about or compare what he is going through to anyone else on the team. He should be focused on himself. He is the youngest forward and I have no issue with young players being leaned on by a coach with higher expectations of that player.

That being said to start this season many players on the team struggled playing and full ice game. Some still do. I expect Eakins to address those players’ mistakes just as quickly as young Yakupov.

Taking on the Coyotes

The challenge for the Oilers tonight will be keeping up with the Coyotes’ group of defenseman. This group is great a supporting and contributing to the offense for their team.

They love to jump into the play to create odd man rushes. They are very good at getting pucks through from the point. Their first passes are very quick and accurate.

As you watch the game tonight watch to see what the Oilers are doing to handle the group. If I am Eakins, I am preaching that the Oilers forwards to do three things:

  • Get in on the forecheck quickly. Finish checks on the D so they can’t jump right into the play.
  • Back check like your life depends on it. This will eliminate many of the odd man rushes the Coyotes D can create.
  • Stand in shooting lanes to eliminate shoots to the net. This means to stand in front of the Coyotes stick on the blue line rather than standing in front of his body. This will force the D to hold on to the puck or put it back into the corner. Anything is better than a clear lane to the net.

Good test for the Oilers tonight. Paying attention to the Coyotes back end would be a good start to an Oilers win.

  • **

    I think the best thing for Yak and the team is if he would accept a stint in the AHL. Right now he is the fourth best right winger we have (I’m not saying forever, just right now) and the team must start wining. The fans needs some wins and so do many of the younger players on this team. Losing constantly will just making losing acceptable to these players and that would mean many more years of this garbage. Beside, Hemsky must be showcased for the best value at trade deadline. Yak will have his day here, in due course. In the mean time he does need to learn how to play a bit more defensively. He will never be Datsuyk, but we can live with that. He just needs to average or even slightly below average and his offensive skills will more than make up for his short comings. Right now he is just bad. The AHL would be a great place for him to learn this without constantly being under fan and media scrutiny. Also, don’t expect him to light things up in the AHL. Those guys are good and would like nothing better than to shut down a #1 overall pick. The kid needs some time and seasoning.

  • Jason Strudwick

    I guess you have to ask, were all of Yak’s prior coaches brutual, didn’t understand defensive hockey, or is this coach not getting the most out of this player?

    Thank goodness Eakins, Acton, Smith and Bucky are here to fix all the lousy coaches that, Hall, Gagner, Eberle, Petry, Ference, Smid, Jones, J Shultz have had alone the way.

  • YFC Prez

    Maybe re-write the article in the light of why Yakupov is being held accountable while someone like Gagner is not being held accountable.

    Accountability shouldn’t have double standards, but should be applied consistently. This is not happening with the Oilers. If it was me in Yakupov’s shoes, I would request a trade as he is being unfairly singled out.

  • The Soup Fascist

    I like Yak and sincerely hope he stays an Oiler for a long time.

    But there are alarm bells out there. Bearing in mind that English is not his first language the last time he spoke up he conveyed the idea that he is happy to work hard and be a good teammate …. on his own terms ……. and that he was born to be an offensive contributor not a checker.

    Certainly he will make his living in the offensive end of the ice. However that does not mean the very basics of defensive play are something he can simply ignore. He has the makings of the proverbial wild colt that needs to be broke. The question is whether or not Eakins is the guy who is capable of developing a defensive acumen without totally throwing a blanket over Yak’s considerable offensive creativity.

    But there is no doubt there is no time like the present to ensure the kid has a clue as to what to do the 59:30 in a game the puck is not on his stick. The Oilers OWE the kid that. Does the organization have the personnel to do it, does Larionov have the desire to accept it and does Yak have the will to do it?

  • **

    This whole Gagner debate has gone on far too long and I personally think the conclusion should be a trade. It’s of too much risk to try and change his game when he is physically inept to changing as he is too damn slow,has been in the league too long without evidence of defensive improvements (see Hemsky) and he has the contract with a no trade clause that kicks in next season.

    Gagner is in a comfortable situation where his mindset is likely that he has already proved himself and has been rewarded. A trade needs to be the solution. Enough of this trying to change players nonsense, the losses will continue to pile on if we don’t trade some talent for some hockey IQ.

  • Rob...

    Let’s all go back to first press conference Eakins did. He said “all players have different things to get them motivated it is up to me to find those” question has he? I would say last time he sat him it didn’t work so what makes him think this will work. Everyone has had teachers in school that you couldn’t understand what they were trying to teach but you get a different teacher and they show you a different way and Bingo that worked. Eakins says he wants his stars playing physical and hitting hmmm I don’t want are star drafted players getting hurt and missing games that 3rd rounders that are drafted are there for. Teams draft star offense to just do that score and play offense tell me what first overall pick that is drafted for offense is told we are going to make you a checker none except the Wild. Get rid of administration or just let him go to a team that appreciates it. Demand the trade now Yaks I still like ya

    • You’re right, teams do draft star offense to score and play offense. Problem the Oilers have is the team has drafted quite a few of those lately and are unwilling to pull off a trade thus having to try and change these players.

      Eakins was dealt these cards, it’s up to MacTavish to make use of having drafted the best player available and get value through trade.

  • Eakins is a smart man, he needs a crutch & Yakupov’s it.

    I’m going to wager a strong guess here, I bet a dollar that Eakins will ride Yakupov through the worst month the Oilers will ever see.

    Eakins needs to deflect attention away from both himself & the team, he’s using Yakupov to do this.

    Look at what this has done just in the short term, it’s taken away from Gagner, Schultz Jr & Sr, it’s taken away from the inept PP & PK, it’s taken away from everything we should be talking about.

    Whether you believe Yakupov should sit or not is irrelevant to what we should be talking about & that’s Eakins, management & the make up of this team.

    This team has regressed why? This team is not better short term or long term.

    • Eakins has done this all season long. Distract fans from the real issue. Just look at the jersey toss as one example, he blasted the fan and tried to convince the fan base and media that it was a bad fan, a “quitter”, all while the real truth is the team is a failure and the jersey toss reflected fan apathy and disapproval. It created a separation of fans, once again (Lowe and his comments) and concluded that there are real fans, second tier fans and fair weather fans.

      This franchise has spent more effort and time on trying to distract the fan base when they should be focusing on building a bloody team worthy of my hard earned dollar.

  • Rob...

    I don’t know how it can be a favor when a player is not playing. If a person can improve his hockey skills by watching then doesn’t that mean a fan that is watching the game can also be a great player someday? Eakins is trying to save his own butt here by throwing Yakupov under the bus. Eakins is smart on trying to distract everyone’s attention to somewhere else instead of taking the blame for the woeful display by his team. Eakins hiring was a mistake from the get go. The first thing he did was conditioning the players to do fitness drills to a bunch of kids that are in shape. Experiencing Hall on C when he was truly lack of the vision and play making skills on ice. The play design are mostly handicapping the team’s ability to score. Flipping players up and down the lines which kills team’s chemistry. He is the worst coach that we ever have, he makes Renney looks like an offensive genius. I don’t understand why so many peoples defending Eakins when he actually blaming a fan for jersey-tossing? If he can’t understand the basic idea that fans are frustrated about team’s performance was the reason for jersey-tossing, how can he be able to understand about his players’ feelings and thoughts?

  • Guy Lafleur

    After last night, I’m getting even more depressed about possibilities to help this team before 2-4 years out, when our dman prospects hopefully turn into miracles on ice. Gagner has the NTC coming up, and after the way he’s played this year, has managed to negate any trade value he had. Hemmer was great once, but hasn’t been anytime too recently, and no team is going to give us anything of huge value for a guy who may or may not play for them after this season ends. Yak has been ruined for trading courtesy of Eakins handling–young and questionably proven player, Russian which does make a lot of GMs nervous, one dimensational, etc. Eberle hasnt been having great games either, especially last night. RNH is a little soft, meaning he wont bring back huge value either. That basically leaves the only player on this team that will truly NEVER get traded, as the only one who would make it possible to get back the kind of players we need

  • **

    I’ll never understand this undying passion for defending Yakupov in the comment sections??? Seriously does anybody disagree he’s a major liability defensively??

    As hard as it can be to watch this team play good then bad than great then horrible at times, his lack of defensive commitment is as consistent as anything. Gagner is a mess defensively but rarely for not caring, just for being quite clueless on where to go or what to do.( hence skating into the crease to help Doobie play goal while the slot man slowly winds up for a onetimer completely unmarked)