The Nail Yakupov Problem

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The Edmonton Oilers have a serious problem with Nail Yakupov, who at this moment in time looks like the worst first overall pick since Patrik Stefan/Rick DiPietro were selected in back-to-back years. Ever wonder what drafting Alexandre Daigle looks like? Three seasons in it looks a lot like Yakupov.

A Tire Fire Season

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I was looking at Benoit Pouliot’s numbers this morning and thinking that he didn’t seem as effective as a) he has been in the recent past and b) he looks to my eyes. So I did what I normally do and looked at the context – and found this:

  • Pouliot with Yakupov: 44.8% Corsi, 42.9% goals
  • Pouliot without Yakupov: 53.7% Corsi, 58.8% goals
  • Yakupov without Pouliot: 46.4% Corsi, 22.6% goals

This isn’t something that’s confined to Pouliot. Yakupov has played at least an hour of five-on-five hockey with 13 different players this year; 12 of them have better Corsi numbers (in many cases, much better numbers) when playing apart from Yakupov. Given that Dallas Eakins gave Yakupov the softest possible minutes – he worked hard to get him bottom-six matchups and gave him offensive zone start after offensive zone start – that’s damning.

Turning a Corner?

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Is Yakupov turning a corner under new head coach Todd Nelson? Not really.

In the eight games since Nelson took sole control of the head coaching position, Yakupov has three points and is minus-three. The underlying numbers are even worse. He has the worst Corsi rating of any forward on the team at a wretched 35.3%, nearly 10 points back of Roy, more than 10 points back of Pouliot.

He had a lovely two-point, plus-three night against Chicago a week ago, a game where he showed flashes of the kind of offensive player he could be. But other than that he simply hasn’t been very good, even if he did have a couple of good chances against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What Now?

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There is no easy path forward for Edmonton.

A trade would be the obvious choice, but Yakupov’s performance has been so poor that his value can’t be very high at all. Maybe that doesn’t matter; perhaps the team needs to accept that the first overall pick it spent on the player is a sunk cost and get what it can for him.

The alternative is to try and develop him.

When Yakupov was drafted, the idea that he might be lured to the KHL by money was one of the principle arguments against taking him; now we’re almost at the point where it might not be a bad thing if he spends a year or two in Russia because he can’t go to the AHL without clearing waivers and he’s largely been a millstone at the NHL level. The problem is that they play a different type of game in the KHL and that league isn’t exactly known for developing well-rounded hockey players.

Can the Oilers afford to develop Yakupov in the NHL? Can they afford not to?

On the latter point, I know I’ve been hammering the player here (because, honestly, he hasn’t been very good) but there have been points where he’s shown things. Believe it or not, in 2013-14 Yakupov actually outperformed the Oilers’ Corsi average; his scoring fell off after a freak shooting percentage year under Ralph Krueger and the goalies had a 0.879 save percentage when he was on the ice so we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it. 

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There’s also this, from earlier this year:

  • Yakupov with Arcobello: 49.4% Corsi, 50.0% goals
  • Yakupov with Perron: 54.1% Corsi, 60.0% goals

For a while there, Eakins had a decent thing going with Yakupov. He was sheltering him (boy, was he ever sheltering him) but with certain linemates he was doing okay. Early in the year, he was even scoring somewhat; 16 games into the season Yakupov had three goals and four assists, with almost all of that coming at evens.

I do think there’s probably a player there somewhere; Yakupov has a lot of good points in his game and in the right situation he might emerge. Unfortunately, Edmonton has so many different problems that it’s going to be hard for the team to put Yakupov in an ideal situation (with two capable veterans, soft-ish minutes and ideally a significant role on the power play) consistently.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Ed Hod

    Weak article.

    This site is becoming a bigger bust than Nail Yakupov.;-‘)

    The writers are allowed to crack jokes on fans and make asinine and disrespectful assumptions about fans and players. Yet, when commentators do the same thing or bring up questions that don’t sit well with the in-crowd their IP addresses are banned and comments removed.

    Who else is left to write an article about Nail on this site? Do the writers take turns every week or two?

    Why don’t you guys try writing about something that actually is affecting and wrong with the Oilers? Why is there no individual articles about Hall, Eberle, Ference and/or Scrivens?

    I wonder if the organization and the fans treated Yak with the same respect and playing time as Hall that he wouldn’t be in the same boat Hall is. Hall turns the puck over and the puck dies on his stick more than anyone I have seen this season. He does whatever he wants and however he wants, yet no one has written or mention about it. Are you guys afraid to or not allowed to by the Oilers?

    Scrivens is the worst back-up in the league, yet he is the Oilers starter. Remember how many bad articles were written about Dubnyk last year? The were probably written because the Oilers allowed you guys to. The Oilers told you and the fans that Scrivens is their starter no matter what and that is probably why there is no articles or comments to be made about his negative play. If you can write bad things about Yak week in week out, think about how much material Scrivens provides on nay given night. Yet, when Scrivens does average and pulls a game out of his ass: all praise is due, but, when the Oilers lose: oh its the weak defences fault blah blah blah.

    When speaking of weak defence, no further needs to be looked than Andrew Ference. I do not recall seeing one good hockey play from him all year long, he just coasts along and collects a pay cheque. That’s the Oilers captain! no wonder this team is playing like it is. Look at its captain and its core. Its a joke.

    Eberle should get way more articles than YAk, in my opinion. The kid is softer than my diarrhea. He cant take or deliver a hit. He doesn’t go to tough areas of the ice. He ruins the PP with his pointless skating.

    I would be willing to bet that if Yak was given the treatment of Eberle and an opportunity to play with RNH and Hall for a long stretch of time: he would put up better numbers and be a way more productive player than Flake Eberle.

    Sorry about the rant, but in the near future can we get some articles on Hall’s, Eberle’s
    Ference’s and Scriven’s weak play that contributes a lot more to the Oilers losses than that of Nail Yakupov.

    • I second this.
      I really see no other reason other than because he is Russian and they’re trying to run him out of town as per Dubnyk. its really pathetic. its all part of it man. The losing culture is within the team, this website with everyone calling for MCEICHEL like idiots, and the fans.
      I love the oilers but its too much…I just dont know anymore

  • Zarny

    @bazmagoo

    If the Oilers trade Yak I don’t think you can say the Oilers gave up on him too easily. He’s in his 3rd year and as Mr. Willis and many comments have outlined there are legitimate and serious concerns. He simply hasn’t been very good.

    The franchise isn’t Snow White here, but Yak bears the majority of the blame. He’s the one making decisions on the ice. His speed and shot are not elite at the NHL level. What worked for him in Jr isn’t going to work in the NHL.

    The things is…2012 was a weak draft year; at least for forwards. So was Nuge’s draft. They aren’t in the same league as Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares, Hall etc. Many years Yak and Nuge would have been drafted 3rd or 4th ish overall. There are lots of 3-4th overall picks who take a few years to get it but the clock is ticking.

    I like Yak’s attitude. He busts his a** and plays with an edge which is why I would lean toward waiting unless a GM is offers good value. No easy answers though.

  • Earlier today I saw the problem with 80% of Oilers fans summed up nicely in one place.

    I was reading the comments on an Oilers fans facebook page where someone had hilariously suggested Yakupov for Kessel.

    The bulk of the comments proceeded to tear this trade apart because “we are trying to get better, not worse by adding people like Kessel”.

    How can anyone expect people like this to ever think rationally?

  • pkam

    I hope that one of the writers does an article on Nikitin………this guy is a total bust.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but he makes JS look like an Allstar!

  • Ed Hod

    The best teams have more than 12 players on the team that they drafted and developed.

    Greene, Stoll, Glencross, Horcoff, Ganger, Dubynk would all be welcome addition to this team today.

    Who did we get for them again :)…….

    Lets not add Yak, Petry and Hall to this list….

  • Ed Hod

    Cheering for losses to get top picks then whining about those top picks being bad players. How about ditching the whole idea that being the worst team in the league for years has anything positive about it.

  • Hemmercules

    The question we should be asking is what team would yak fit the best on? I just wanna see him score goals and get his love for the game back. Give him away for free. Doesn’t matter if the oilers win or lose a yak trade they’re still gonna be a Lowe run team

  • Hemmercules

    I can’t believe yak is a bust. He has too much passion, skill and most importantly a great work ethic. Somthing busts don’t have. The oilers just beat the confidence out of him

    • Hemmercules

      I hated the pick personally. Really wanted to see a bold move at the time for something the oilers actually needed. That said, I can’t believe at 21 years old the word bust is already coming out. Not every player is an instant success and they can’t all be slam dunks. I think on a solid organization he’s much better at this point but he plays for the oilers. Too many coaches, not enough development. Same old.

  • Bucknuck

    I hope someone somewhere puts together a database of all the idiots suggesting that Eberle should be dealt for peanuts because Yakupov would replace him.

    Then we could all ignore those people from now on.

    Eberle is having a rough season, but he’s still the listed as 19th in league scoring for RW.

    Yakupov, like Brownlee says so well here, is not performing like you would expect from a 1st overall pick.

      • Most people prefer to use something called “evidence” or “supporting information” or even “heresay” to support their opinions when presenting them to people because unfortunately, “this is what I think the evidence be damned”, doesn’t carry a lot of weight.

        • Bucknuck

          This is so true. Unsubstantiated opinion is hard to take seriously. I can disagree with someone, yet still understand and respect their opinion if they can show it is well thought out.

      • Bucknuck

        Huh!?

        I don’t need stats, I just can’t remember who I was arguing with back in August and I’m too lazy to look them up. I just want to know if it’s worth the energy.

        Sometimes it makes no sense to bang your head against a wall, which is essentially what you are doing when trying to present your point of view to a moron.

    • Anton CP

      Not performing like you would expect out of first overall pick…

      He also is not treated as a first overall pick. How many of the past first overall picks are still being shuffled up and down the lineup? It is unrealistic and unfair judgement on Yak. If he is not performing like first overall pick by logging on 18+ minutes a game then you can say he failed as such. How many different linemates that Yak had in the last 3 seasons? How can you expect any kind of consistancy out of him when he cannot get any chemistry with his linemates because they are so random?

      • Bucknuck

        If you honestly believe this then you aren’t watching the games. He’s had ample opportunities and he whiffs on it all the time. he misses the net all the time, he coughs up the puck all the time. He’s getting outplayed by fourth line players. Why would you put him on a top line.

        Have you SEEN the amount of power plays he’s bungled? How on earth could you justify giving him more PP time.

        You’d have to have scrambled eggs for brains to give him more ice time when he’s a liability out there.

        • Anton CP

          Funny how those weren’t issues during his rookie year. I wondered what has happened in the last year and half…oh yeah, MacT happened, Eakins happened. Eberle has already earned his spot before those 2 schmucks arrived. And with the list of issues that you have listed that I know someone is much worst and yet still logging on major minutes. Isn’t this some kind of double standard here?

    • Bucknuck

      Not saying these guys are geniuses but am i the only one who sees that this organizational arrogance arrived around when Katz took over?

      Feuding with Souray when you could mend fences and maybe move an asset.

      Overpaying his buddy Shawn Horcoff.

      The ill-conceived Seattle visit.

      The rumored insistence to draft Yak.

      The pathetic plea to Dany Heatley to play for the Oilers.

      The text to Knob Stauffer at end of ’09 promising MacT wouldn’t be fired.

      Saw more sound judgement by the Oilers before he arrived. Can’t imagine they all got stupid by coincidence.

  • Anton CP

    It is unfair to compare Yak to Daigle, Stefan, and DePietro. Daigle never has his heart in hockey, he was a great talent that never tried. Stefan should not be drafted first if not because Burke bullied Thrashers to not to take Sedin sisters. DePietro was broken, you can’t fault him because he spent half of his career on IR.

    Somehow, I guess that I will never understand why everyone so quickly throwing young players under the bus? Eakins himself cannot came up with better defensive game plans and somehow he kept on preaching to players about playing defense. I have no idea about what is this so called “Eakins had decent thing going with Yakupov” came from. Eakins treatment toward Yak was beyond shelter, Eakins was pretty much lock him in the freezer. I will always detest any good thing said toward Eakins, he was the worst disaster has happened to Oilers since Katz bought this franchise.

  • Oilers4ever

    Personally JW i think your wrong… Yaks been better with Pouliot and Roy. They’ve been better than the Nuge line at times. Too bad those three werent together from day one… but that would’ve required MacT to have brains in the summer and get a bonafide centre instead of waiting for their season to be lost. Dumbass.

  • Nomad787

    Just wait until young Connor Mac comes up in this garbage fire. Mact is going to hit him with the Nail Yakupov experience. Absolutely doing anything possible to completely ruin him. But the writers and scribes in edmonton won’t be writing the “Connor Mcdavid problem”. No sir, because he is Canadian.