TAKES FROM THE CHEAP SEATS



I’m not sure when Kevin Quinn of Sportsnet decided he’d start calling Nail Yakupov of the Edmonton Oilers Nye-eeeel Yakupov when he scores a goal, but we heard him bellow it twice in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets Monday.

All I know is it beats the hell out of Fail Yakupov, the headline of an item I wrote back on January 9. In that bit I suggested interim coach Todd Nelson give the then-struggling Yakupov every possible chance to succeed and then opined that if Yakupov didn’t grab it and make something significant of it, it might be time to consider him a bust.

While it remains too early to make a call either way on his long-term future, Yakupov has looked like a new player under Nelson. Yakupov’s two goals against the Jets has him on a five-game point streak, a stretch in which he has 3-3-6. In the 22 games he’s played under Nelson, Yakupov has 4-7-11 after managing just 4-4-8 in his first 36 games of the season.

Yakupov is getting more ice time. He’s getting more power play time. He’s got something going with Derek Roy. The goals he scored against the Jets were beauties. We’re seeing some of the confidence and strut he showed as a rookie – remember how some people had their tighties in a knot because the kid celebrated goals with too much gusto?

I can’t say I saw this coming.

YAKKITY-YAK

While Yakupov remains something of an adventure five-on-five and has a long way to go to become reliable on the defensive side of the puck, he is looking more like the offensive player he came billed as. His first goal came because he took the puck to the net. His second was pure hands. A snipe.

From where I sit, Yakupov has responded to Nelson opening the door of opportunity with his best performances of this season, since his rookie season, actually. We’re seeing a little more control in his game. We’re seeing a change of pace here and there instead of every shift being played at a frantic pace. He’s been at the right place at the right time more often.

I get the need to have players be responsible defensively. I get the need to insist players perform within the system the coach employs. It’s also important to let the player be what he is. Every time Nelson throws Yakupov out on the power play or gives him the tap for a shootout, as he did again last night, he’s saying, “Go do what you do best. You can do this.”

Nail or Nye-eeeel, my guess is fans really don’t care what Quinn calls Yakupov as long as we see more of what we’ve witnessed of late in the games that remain this season. “Fail” is a very distant third right now. I’m fine with that, as I’m sure you are.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

Bono

The likelihood that Oiler GM Craig MacTavish will trade impending UFA Jeff Petry in coming weeks and what Edmonton’s blue line might look like without him has been touched on by other writers here, but I’d like to offer my take on it. In one word: disaster.

While I’ve insisted all along Petry would be foolish not to test the UFA market – he could do so and use potential offers as leverage and still re-sign with the Oilers – I’m stunned that MacTavish hasn’t seen fit to at least give Petry something to think about by making an offer. 

Petry, 27, isn’t a first pairing defenseman on a team that’s any good, but the way he’s played this season puts him in the second pairing on a lot of NHL teams. How many defensemen do the Oilers have like that? As good as Oscar Klefbom might become, Petry is the best the Oilers have right now. That’s not worth an offer? 

When I think about Edmonton’s blue line without Petry, I think about Klefbom being leaned on too heavily next season as Petry was while he was developing. I think about having to rush Darnell Nurse into a roster spot before he’s ready. I think about the Oilers having to rely on gimpy Nikita Nikitin and fast-fading Andrew Ference. I think about Justin Schultz, warts and all, getting a long-term offer. I think about over-paying for a broken-down or never-that-good UFA to fill the void left by Petry.

It is to shudder.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Observation

  • The Oilers are 9-10-3 under Nelson. I don’t see another win in the next five games to close out the month – against Boston, Minnesota twice, Anaheim and St. Louis.
  • Anton Lander has 4-7-11 in 21 games this season. He had 2-6-8 in his first 94 games with the Oilers in three previous stints. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • oilerjed

    I wonder, if after a half season, Bob Nichols and management have developed a master plan, to be implemented once this season is over. Perhaps that blueprint doesn’t for some reason include Petry.

  • Petrolero

    We were ready to pay Clarkson 7 million ………for a fouth line winger that is a massive overpay………but paying a legit defenceman ( Petry) at say 5-6 million is out of our range??

    Just when Petry is in his prime and looking like the defenceman that we have been looking for all along, we are going to trade him for a second or third round pick?

    Ference has been a bust. Niikitin has been a bust. Schultz is struggling. Fayne now looks like a seventh defenceman. Through all this Mac T is playing with the best defenceman we have……….exactly what message does this send around the league?

    It’s no wonder we can get players to sign here………they all know that the Oilers do not value the players they have, only the players they do not have!

    THis is not good brand development!

    • oilerjed

      “It’s no wonder we can get players to sign here………they all know that the Oilers do not value the players they have, only the players they do not have!”

      I’m waiting to hear the real story here. With the money that has been thrown at far inferior players I find it hard to believe that they just weren’t willing to shell out for a pretty sure bet.
      Like has been stated elsewhere, there seems to be more to this story… Maybe Petry told KLowe and MacT to stick it. Maybe Petry isnt a very good teammate ( not that Ive heard anything of the sort), maybe Petry asked to be traded a long time ago and it has managed to stay under the carpet as it should.
      Im still hoping that some reporter pieces together some answers or MCjesus help us, maybe MacT will be forthcoming with information

  • TKB2677

    The only thing that bothers me about the Petry thing is the rumors that they haven’t even offered him a deal. I am not a Petry fan, I personally think he is overrated. He has all the tools to be a real good Dman yet he always seems to leave you wanting more and be underwelmed. He shows flashed of doing great things but seems to be always holding back.

    But he is a legit NHL Dman. He’s cast too high on the Oilers but in a perfect world, he’s a decent #4. So I don’t like the idea of them throwing him away. I would hope that in the weeks to come, they at least offer him a contract. You don’t have to overpay him, you don’t even have to offer what he has told you he wants. Don’t low ball him but at least offer what you think is fair. Give him a few options at various lengths. But put the ball in his court. He may counter or he may flat out reject your deal. You don’t even have to budget from your best and final if you don’t want too. Chances are unless you put a 5 in front of your offer, I think he says no. But they owe it to the fans to at least try. At least then you can say with truth “we offered what we felt he was worth, he said no, so we are parting ways”.

    • Oilers4Ever

      “The only thing that bothers me about the Petry thing is the rumors that they haven’t even offered him a deal…”

      Bang on.
      Matt Henderson and Jason Gregor are running with the rumor that MacT hasnt said one word to the Petry camp. I find that hard to believe. Its just a rumor. A rumor that was started because the team had a somewhat decent roadtrip and won game against teams they shouldnt have had a chance against. The media needs something to stir the pot with.

      • camdog

        Jim Matheson spoke with Mr.Arnott and wrote about it in the Edmonton journal a few days back.

        Jim Matheson isn’t in the Hockey Hall of Fame because he makes things up.

        • TKB2677

          Here is the thing with that. Both sides admitted a long time ago that this past offseason, they did talk about a long term deal before settling on the 1 year deal that is set to expire. So if you are the Oilers and you talked to Petry last offseason and in the back of your mind you have a max number you are willing to pay him, has Petry really done anything this season to change that number? Not really.

          The advanced stats guys tell everyone Petry is the best Dman the Oilers got. I am not a fan of Petry but sure, I can go along with that I guess. But he’s the best Dman on a lousy defense. So is that saying a lot? Not in my books. Has Petry’s game in any area taken a big step forward? Not really. He’s on pace for his usual low 20’s in points. He’s still a high minus player(granted that’s not all his fault). He still doesn’t shoot a lot. He’s on pace for his usual number of “hits”. His defensive play is I’d say about the same. He’s probably OK defensively 2/3 the time and a train wreck the others. So if you go down the numbers, he looks to be about the same as he was last year. Maybe there is a tiny area where he has improved (advanced stats guys I’m sure have an area) but there isn’t one area that jumps off the page and says “whoa, he’s taken a step forward). So if you are the Oilers and you have it in your mind he’s worth $_____ per year, what’s really changed?

          In the case of Petry and his agent, he probably has his high starting number that probably starts with a 5 and I doubt they have changed from that. So if both sides talked last season and are far apart and nothing so far has changed for either side, how much negotiating are you actually going to do right now? Probably nothing. It could be as simple as Mac T seeing Petry’s agent in the halls or sending him a text and saying “anything change?”. Nope. Ok then. If both sides aren’t willing to budge, what value does talking get you?

          I’m going to assume that as the deadline gets close, they will have a talk session. Both will present their best and final.

          • pkam

            “But he’s the best Dman on a lousy defense. So is that saying a lot? Not in my books. ”

            We keep saying that Petry is not valuable because he plays on a lousy team or lousy defense. So how good will Petry be on a good team?

            Lets looks at 2 players for comparison. I’ll choose Myers and Georges as they both play for Sabres a terrible team, and Georges played for the Habs last year and Myers plays 3 games as a Jets after the trade.

            Georges is a pretty good 2nd pairing shutdown defenseman. He played 2nd pairing role in Montreal for many years with very good stats. This year he is playing 1st pairing role in Sabres and he is 6 pts and -28 in 46 games even with Myers as his partner.

            Now look at Myers, he is a young defenseman with 1st pairing potential. He played 1st pairing role in Buffalo for several years. Before he was traded to Jets, he was 13 pts and -15 in 47 games. He is 3 pts and +0 in 3 games in Winnipeg playing 2nd paring role at the moment. See the difference?

            Jet head coach Paul Maurice was asked in the Oilers post game interview about Myers comment that it is so much easier to play in Winnipeg. I suggest you to go to the Oilers web site and watch that video and listen to Paul’s reply.

          • TKB2677

            Well every time the topic of Petry comes up when an Edmonton radio guy is talking to someone from another NHL City, they all say Petry is a 4-5 on their team. As an example, a Detroit play by play guy said that if Petry came to the Wings, he would be their #5. I’ve heard Gregor make mention of talking to scouts from other teams when they are in the building and they told Gregor Petry is a #4. So unless everyone else is wrong, Petry is a #4 Dman. Even the Edmonton media guys that have a crush on Petry admit he’s a second pairing guy.

            Nelson who’s seemingly coaching for a full time gig is playing Petry in a second pairing role. Klefbomb and Schultz have been getting more ice time than Petry. In the last 8 Oilers games, Petry has only played more than Klefbomb and Schultz in 2 games. The Montreal game, Petry played almost 10 mins less. In the Winnipeg game, he played 4 mins less.

            Apparently the Oilers view Klefbomb and Schultz as probably their #1 pairing. So it’s very likely that as those 2 guys evolve, their ice time will increase and the gap between the first and second pairing will widen even more. It’s bad enough they are paying Nikitin 4.5 mill but it’s at least a short term deal. THe last thing I want is to have a second pairing guy making 5 mill for the next 4, 5 or 6 years while putting up 20 pts and playing maybe 17 mins a night.

          • pkam

            Lets not discuss how much is Petry worth but what kind of a defenseman he is.

            I never say Petry is a top pairing defenseman. In fact, I believe he is a 2nd pairing defenseman playing the toughest situation in Edmonton, that is mostly defensive zone start against the toughest competition.

            And that is why it is unfair to judge him by his stat. Schultz has a lot of offensive zone start and hardly any defensive zone start against toughest competition. Can you imagine what his stat will be if Schultz has very little offensive zone start and lots of defensive zone start against the toughest competition? I believe his stats will be worse, lots worse than Petry. Maybe Schultz will improve in a couple of years, but I doubt he can handle those situation at this moment.

            On the other hand, I don’t think Petry will be able to produce at the same rate as Schultz even he is given those opportunities.

            I may be wrong but I don’t think Petry will ever be a top pairing defenseman, however, I think he is a very solid 2nd pairing defenseman, and his number will be much better if he joins a better team and play the right role with a good supporting system. Just like Georges in Montreal and Myers in Winnipeg, they are both better than in Buffalo. Neither the Habs and the Jets are great team but we can already see the difference in their stats.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I hope Nicholson puts a bigger % of our cap against players we draft; put into our development system and come out the other side as real NHL players.

    The dream of getting SIGNIFICANT parts of the line-up from UFA has truly failed this team.

    We are starting to see secondary scoring from our home grown players. IMO Petry is the best example of developing a NHL player we have, and now we are letting him leave on his terms….. Fail

  • Serious Gord

    So what are yaks stats under Eakins versus under all other nhl coaches?

    Holy moly Macts choice of eakins – one he defended in glowing terms right up to his being fired – was a complete disaster – the nhl equivalent of the bay of pigs.

    Imagine how well this team could perform with a bonafide NHL coach (and GM).

    I give San jose a 75% chance that ownership fires both Wilson and McLellan.

    As much as it would be nice to win the lottery and get mcdavid IT might be far better if Katz fires mact and names Nelson assistant coach and hires both Wilson and McLellan.

  • Oiler Fan 16

    Petry has been steadily improving while the Oilers “management” has been trying to crush his value in the market.

    Pety leaving or staying is not going to have a huge impact long term, maybe, but letting him go for nothing (or near to nothing) is an even worse deal. Let’s hope the Braintrussed has a plan.

    hahahahahahhaha….ooooo, yeah. a plan…

  • Serious Gord

    Actually, Kevin is correctly pronouncing Nail’s name (all of a sudden)…

    It’s pronounced: Nye-EEL Ya-KOO-pov

    I’m just glad someone is saying it correctly.

  • SuntanOil

    Back to Nail for a second. I didn’t get to watch the game, and saw the highlights a few times. Nail scored twice and was +1. Anyone catch what goal against he was on the ice for?

    edit. Figured it out thx

  • SuntanOil

    Pretty sure Petry’s camp has informed the Oilers what the expected asking price and term was going to be and maybe it was too steep. MacT said all along he was keeping the core together and Petry was never mentioned as a core piece.

    Do the Oilers want to fork out 25 million or more for this guy? No sense making an offer to Petry when they already know it won’t be enough. Money talks and it’s saying he aint worth it.

  • oilerjed

    The day/night Petry start making people think twice about standing in front of the net, makes them uncomfortable, makes them wince in a little pain after tussling with him, then he will be worth the money most of you think he’s worth now. He’s not soft, but I have not seen anything difficult whatsoever in playing against Petry. He just don’t have that edge a top d-man has. And he’s certainly not talented enough to demand 1 st pair money.

    I don’t care what another GM is willing to pay/overpay him. If he’s the lead horse on any pairing, 1st or 2nd, and he’s paid over $3,5 M, he’s going to be very well overpaid. he is nowhere near as good as most of you think he is.
    On a solid team, Petry might not even slot into 2 nd pairing.
    Stop comparing salaries like:
    Ference: too late, he’s already here.
    Nikitin: too late, he’s already here.

    No need to continue that strategy.

    Should be somewhat like NFL contracts: Guaranteed certain amount. The rest you have to earn. Most would not receive the portion to be earned.

  • nqmt

    if anybody was listening to Oilers Now today, Stauffer was asked about Petry and you can pretty much insinuate that Petry priced himself out of the market because he did not get along with Eakins. He also said that Stauffer interviewed him on Sunday and he got the sense that he likes Nelson more and that there’s still 2 weeks left for a deal to get done.

    Also, “Nye-eeeel” is the proper way to pronounce his name and the proper way to pronounce his last name is also ya KOOO pov

  • WTF2

    “The Oilers are 9-10-3 under Nelson. I don’t see another win in the next five games to close out the month – against Boston, Minnesota twice, Anaheim and St. Louis.”.

    Don’t count these guys out. They haveayed a few eggs recently but have also shat gold. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If they battle and fight like they have been and still lose I’ll be happy.

  • oilerjed

    They had to overpay Ference (a hometown boy) to come here. Then there’s Nikitin, a healthy scratch on his former team the Oil traded for and then over payed.

    Petry has a pretty good argument if he wants 5-5.5 a year. I couldn’t imagine what they would have to pay a 1/2 dman, if he’d even consider coming here.

    What scares me the most is what Schultz is going to want and considering what MacT said about him how’s he too argue.

    MacT ‘ sorry Justins not worth 6 mill a year ‘

    Agent ‘F U Craig, hes gonna win the Norris in a couple yrs right? Just sign on the dotted line. ‘

  • Oilers4Ever

    love Derek Roy in Edmonton. I think though we should bring in another centre for competition. Yeah there is Lander and Leo the Hero but that could make things more competitive. Next season our centres would be RNH-Roy-Lander-Gordon. Say Lander and Roy earn their spot on the roster than we can plug in this new centre on the wing. This new centre dosen’t need to be someone major like Mike Richards but someone like Winnik. Just anything to stop us from rushing Drasaitl or Yakimov

    • TKB2677

      The Roy situation is a real tough one. I am not sure they can get much for him anyway. Is getting a 4th rounder worth it? I also am not sure that Roy is a answer for them at the center position. He doesn’t help their lack of size in the top 6 or top 9. But he is a vet and having a guy like that to shelter a Draisatl or the next center they draft is a huge plus. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to start Draisatl on the wing next year to ease the pressure. So I would say keep him and if they could sign him to a 1 yr deal, I would do it now.

      The big plus is Yak clearly likes playing with him and the team is FINALLY seeing some production from the guy. They need Yak to play well, score some goals and get his value up so they can trade him. The core isn’t right, someone of Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yak needs to go to change the make up. I think Yak’s top end game is a 30ish goal guy that will destroy you in your own end but you hold your nose because he pots some goals. If playing with Roy for the rest of the year can maybe get Yak into the teens in goals and not playing like a complete disaster so his value goes up then great. He’s still young so a team will bit on the potential especially if he can get into the teens in goals. They will rationalize it by not meshing with Eakins and the lack of a center. Then you can use Yak and something else to get a piece like a good Dman or a bigger center.

  • Petrolero

    I understand 5-6 guys would be nice but who? We gotta be realistic here. All teams could use a couple guys to get over the edge. To say the oilers need 5-6 new guys means a compete team overall and that just isn’t going to happen. We gotta be realistic here folks. Unfortunatly the guys they have just need to step up.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Sorry Robin, but with all due respect, I’m having a lot of trouble burping up much bile about MacT’s handling of Petry.

    As I look at it …at worst …MacT made the “safe” play with Petry last summer because Petry wasn’t coming off of a particularly great season… and that safe-play backfired. I can live that because I can remember a lot of people on this site describing Petry with the same words that were once used to describe many of the fandom’s whipping boys of the past – everyone from Tom Poti to Ethan Moreau to Shawn Horcoff to Paul Coffey (yes, young Oiler fans, even Coffey heard from boo-birds at Northlands back in the day). Petry didn’t look like he was worth locking up for five years.

    I can also live with it because none of us exactly knows what was said at the negotiating table between MacT and Petry’s agent. How do we know that Petry’s agent didn’t ask for, say, five years at five-million-per? Or three years at 5.5-million-per?

    From my perspective, which is buttressed by absolutely by nothing but an uneducated guess – Petry asked for a larger deal than what he was worth last summer, the Oilers counter-offered with something less (I’ll throw out a number – three years, $12 million?). Petry refused, his agent advised him to keep things simple: Accept a one-year bridge deal from the Oilers, put in a solid year and glide nicely into UFA status on July 1, 2015.

    Simple as that. MacT knew that as soon as the ink dried on that one-year bridge deal, the clock was ticking on Petry’s exit. No need to have any further contact with Petry or his agent during the NHL season – their train is already steaming its way to July 1.

    Why on Earth wouldn’t Petry wait until July 1st to sign a contract? He’d be foolish not to … and it has nothing to do with how the Oilers are run, on the ice or off of it. Agents do not advise their players to give up their UFA rights five months before July 1. Full stop.

    So, in light of that, why on Earth would the Oilers bother talking to him now?

    At best, the Oilers could offer him an excellent deal next week – say five years, $30 million – and the likely response from Petry’s agent will be: “OK, great. Thanks for this offer. We’ll get back to you on July 1st with our answer. I’ve got your number. Actually – tell you what … if you don’t hear from us by, say, noon Eastern on July 1, then the answer’s ‘no.’ How about that?”

    MacT’s gamble last summer was that Petry wouldn’t play well enough over the course of the season to merit some additional marketing power. A reasonable gamble.

    Petry’s agent gambled that his client would play well enough to blow that bridge deal away. Also a reasonable gamble.

    Petry’s agent won. I can live with that. Some days you get the bear and, some days, the bear gets you. That’s the business. We need to move on.

    • bradleypi

      So by saying that petrys agent won, are you implying that petry is going to sign a 5×5.5mill deal in July? With stats which by my accounts trending to be 20 points and -30…. ? I look at it the exact opposite way. That Mact won this little Mexican standoff by not being straddled with a bottom pairing dman for 3-5 years at 4mill per. The Oilers have 4 guys that are 3-6 dmen. Nikitin, ference, klefblom, Fayne and possibly marincin or nurse if either has a strong training camp…. where exactly does petry fit here? Why can’t oilersnation see this? Petry had his chance to be a top pairing guy on this team. He blew it. Times up, move on.

      • Spaceman Spiff

        Hmm. Good question. And, honestly, I have no idea what Petry will get on July 1, but it will be an over-pay by someone other than Edmonton.

        You’re quite correct – MacT probably comes out ahead on this if you believe that Petry isn’t any better than he is right now and isn’t likely to improve very much to a point where he’ll be worth $5.5-million-per or whatever he ends up getting on July 1.

        But…

        Chances are, Petry’s going to sign with a team that’s either good or great. That means his numbers are going to improve, across the board. And that means MacT will get pilloried next year because he’ll have allowed a player drafted and developed by his organization to walk and then flourish as he magically “developed” into a decent 3-4 guy playing 20 minutes a night alongside better players.

        I guess what I’m saying is I’m prepared to cut MacT some slack right now for not talking to Petry’s agent … and next year when the mob hits the blog sites to pillory him once again.