YAK CITY: TURN OUT THE LIGHTS

YakChips

Nail Yakupov fans got what they’d been calling for when coach Todd McLellan finally gave their man his chance to line-up alongside Connor McDavid again in the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place Tuesday. To understate, Yakupov blew it.

Benoit Pouliot set the stage for Yakupov’s opportunity alongside McDavid with a pair of penalties, including the kind of brain cramp that’s defined his vagabond NHL career – he hacked the stick out of Ryan Kesler’s hands for no reason. The Ducks scored on the ensuing power play in the final minute of the first period to take a 1-0 lead. Enter Yakupov.

OK, kid. Here you go. You’re playing with McDavid. Get after it. Yak fans rejoiced. It’s about damn time. It was 1-1 in the second on a soft goal by Leon Draisaitl when, at long last, Yakupov stepped back into the spotlight on centre stage beside the biggest name on Edmonton’s marquee and promptly produced the equivalent of doing a header into the front row.

Yakupov couldn’t get a handle on a puck cleared to him along the boards by Brandon Davidson and had it slashed off his stick by Jakob Silfverberg just inside the blue line. Kesler grabbed the loose rubber, then spun and spotted Silfverberg, who beat Yakupov going to the net and buried it behind Cam Talbot to make it 2-1. The Silfverberg goal is here. 

DEFINING MOMENT

Down the road, when fans debate what went wrong for Yakupov in Edmonton and why the Oilers moved him along, that goal by Silfverberg might stand out as one of those defining moments, a last straw. In some ways for me, it brought to mind the infamous “I just wasn’t into it” quote by Jason Arnott, a far better player than Yakupov, in the wake of a particularly bad performance before GM Glen Sather moved him along.

Moments like that don’t necessarily provide an accurate measure of a player’s ability or what kind of career he’ll have. In most cases they don’t – Arnott had a terrific rookie season in Edmonton, one in which he was runner-up to Martin Brodeur for the Calder Trophy. In New Jersey, Arnott scored the goal that won the Devils the 2000 Stanley Cup. He’d finish his career with 938 points in 1,244 career games. Arnott struggled at times in the spotlight here. He had off-ice issues. The “I just wasn’t into it” quote was what he was remembered for.

Yakupov, now 228 games into his NHL career, had his moment Tuesday. His calling card, the reason he was drafted first overall in 2012, was his ability to produce points. He has 102. He’s shown brilliant flashes, but he’s also one of the quirkiest players you’ll ever see. He’s provided more than his share of head-scratching moments for a carousel of coaches and his legions of critics and fans. In short, some good, some bad, a lot of what-the-hell?

Yakupov fans have complained long and loud about how much ice time he gets, the quality of linemates he’s had, what situations he’s used in and how he’s had to adjust to so many different coaches as he’s struggled, and failed, to establish himself. In the big picture, the 228 games he’s played, there are degrees of merit in some of those arguments. Others just come off as lame excuses. In the real world, where results matter most, at the bottom line, Yakupov hasn’t found a way to consistently deliver.

IN THE MOMENT

Yakupov got his chance Tuesday because Pouliot opened the door. Doesn’t really matter how or why he got it. What did matter was he got another chance from another coach and he didn’t only fail to make the most of it, he managed to make the worst of it. McLellan, obviously, was exasperated.

“He gets to take the ice time I took away from Poo. Not a lot of success there, either,” McLellan said post-game, when asked specifically about Yakupov. In a follow-up by Ryan Rishaug of TSN about opportunity knocking for players in general, McLellan added: “It was on a plate today for a couple of them. You couldn’t tee it up any better.”

No, you couldn’t. That kind of opportunity squandered, and the timing of it, sticks in the mind of a coach and a GM. Framed in that, I suspect Yakupov is out of chances here and that he’ll be moved along before next season, be it leading into the trade deadline or over the summer. Maybe McLellan and Pete Chiarelli had already come to that conclusion before Tuesday. I don’t know. Either way, I can’t see it playing out any differently now.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Megaphone

The other Oiler with one foot out the door is Justin Schultz, which is hardly a news flash given his price point and how little he’s produced this season. We’ll hear plenty of speculation about who might be interested and at what price between now and deadline day.

A week or so ago, Bob Stauffer of 630 CHED mentioned that the return for Schultz might be more than what people expected, that maybe he’d be worth a prospect. In his popular 30 Thoughts this week, Elliotte Friedman mentioned defenceman Anthony DeAngelo of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The item is here. Is there a connection?

DeAngelo got himself into trouble with the OHL as a member of the Sarnia Sting back in 2014. You can read about that here. DeAngelo, an undersized right shot D-man is with Syracuse of the AHL right now. Might Chiarelli and Steve Yzerman have something to talk about? Stay tuned.

  • Word from the Oilers this morning is that Eric Gryba will be out a month because of the knee injury he sustained last night. That’ll put the brakes on any trade speculation involving Gryba. 

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

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • O.C.

    For sucks fakes…

    Comparing Reinhart to Yak?

    Never mind that a D man starts to be NHL ready later…

    …a First Overall (forward) pick in year 4 should be dominating the second line, if not the top line.

    I see little chance of that happening.

    Ever.

  • If you want to get a lot of action on this site criticize Yak it will bring out the Yak backers in droves. No matter how badly he fails, there is an excuse, the coach, the center or the obvious prejudice because he is Russian. When all else fails change the subject, sure Yak wasn’t very good, but so and so was just as bad.

    • Seanaconda

      Brownlee can stick up for himself, but he didn’t blame Yak for the lose, just stated that Yak had a golden opportunity shine and we all saw what happened.

      • Seanaconda

        I wasn’t replying to Brownlee I was replying to you hahah I have no hate on whatever the writers wanna write about specially considering they tend to back up their points. But oiler fans tend to like to jump on players to make themselves feel better about the team losing.

  • wilco

    I’ll take a few more sips of CON YAK before going in for a trade.

    Yak is on a cheap deal and can only look better if Ebs and Teddy are moved. He will be going into a contract year next season and with solid top 6 time he should bloom on the scoresheet.

  • LetsGoOilerzzzzz
    207.228.78.126 Loooool I replied to this and I called it! Czar Brownlee ended up deleting haha. Again to re-iterate what I was trying to say, I do agree about them boosting yaks stats if they did want to trade him. Doesn’t make sense to make his value diminish and Brownlee is clearly wrong on that point, I don’t think Yak will be traded before next season either. Just look at how they have been trying to showcase Schultz and you know that if they really wanted to trade Yak before next season they wouldn’t be handling him like this, guy was a first overall pick, we couldn’t get a late first rounder for him right now…. Maybe this will stay a little longer, Brownlee may be asleep haha

    NotGood
    207.228.78.126 Yes it was loooool Brownlee may be a communist spy he believes that freedom of speech is bad and censorship is key haha

    Yes, you called it — from the same IP.

  • wilco

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that the Oiler players resent having to play with Yak ?His helter skelter style of losing the puck at the oppositions blue line then having to turn and skate like hell to get back sucks the energy and life out of his line mates .
    “BE GONE I say , you have stayed far too long for any good that you have done here”.

  • Well written Robin.

    I do not find myself in a camp that believes that a few shifts on Connors line is a guarantee of points or success but do concede it was the best currently available option on the roster to do SOMETHING.

    Heck… ebs didnt exactly light the world on fire in that game and he presumably has chemistry and familiarity with how Connor rolls.

    The Ducks have been playing as well as anyone in the league and capitalizing on errors is one of their specialties of late. Sadly for young Yak in this case.

  • Brownlee just loves deleting stuff he doesn’t agree with, poor old man I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings but I said nothing wrong here so I am posting again:

    I do not agree with this article at all.

    I don’t think it’s really objective and an over exaggeration for the following reasons:

    – this was not a “defining” moment for Yaks career. Eberle and Davidson were as much at fault if not more than Yak on that play. He screwed up but so did Eberle on the turn over and Davidson on the fumbled clear that Yak was trying to help out on. You fail to mention either of those, Yak made a bad play but you are blowing it out of proportion.

    – oh yaaaaaaa that was really the golden opportunity yak fans were waiting for…a few shifts on left wing where he has proven in the past to be worse with defensive coverage than on right wing (not going to pretend he’s a selke candidate here) not really an opportunity to succeed.

    – it seems like this is just a hot topic to stir up some controversy about a controversial player….actually wait…I guess that does make you a good blogger.

    Lastly Mr. Brownlee, Tmac and PC are great hockey minds that know what they’re doing, at least that’s what I and everyone else hope to believe and have been told by yourself and other media members, could you comment on how they have been handling him if you really think they’re mind has been made up about trading him before next season? Yak is not going anywhere before next season. Everyone know the playoffs have been out of reach since before Mcdavid got back. If they wanted to trade Yak he would have been getting prime time even strength minutes and power play with McDavid to boost his stats and get some type of a reasonable return. Do you not agree with this? If you don’t then explain to me why Schultz has been showcased so much for a trade and why would they not do this with Yak? Is giving Schultz the minutes he’s been getting this year helping the team win games? Clearly that’s not the goal right now so why wouldn’t they be trying to fatten up the return for Yak?

  • Seanaconda

    Am I going crazy but wasn’t this post already posted / replied to and then deleted….I figured brownlee was just mad cuz he does that. Sorry brownlee I do like you but you are def basically the oilersnation Internet police hahah

  • It was posted, via cut and paste, three times and if it’s posted again it’ll be taken down again. Funny how that happens when you go out of your way to insult the person who wrote the item you’re commenting on.

    It’s not about being the internet police. There are rules about posting on this website. Simple as that. If you don’t care to follow them, that’s your call.

  • Seanaconda

    Hahah it’s all good. You’re just the only writer that seems to enforce any sort of rules. I was just poking fun. Henderson will basically get into full on debates while you have slightly different approach.