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.

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  • ZIN21

    Puff piece

    He got a few shifts with them on his off wing, didn’t move the puck quick enough while he was being pinched and that’s enough to say he blew it??

    I get it. Yak hasn’t turned into a 30 goal sniper. Be he’s not the reason this team is consistently at the bottom of the standings. Look at a guy like Purcell. Can’t do anything unless he’s playing with elite talent. Same goes with Yak.

    I see no reason to pull the plug on a 22 year old playing 3/4 line wing. Maybe they should fix the bigger problems on the team before worrying about Yak.

    • You are the kind of excuse-maker I’m talking about.

      It’s not a few shifts. It’s 228 games. It’s the timing of a blown opportunity. One more straw on the pile. Nowhere in this item is Yakupov blamed for the ineptitude of the team as a whole. Sooner or later, you’ll run out of other people to blame and take an honest look at this player.

      Or maybe not.

      • Spoils

        I think I have an honest look at the player. He’s been a major disappointment. But he’s also a 22 year old kid who does have skill. I don’t know why you’d pull the plug on a guy like this. He has shown flashes of quality play. He’s doesn’t have a large contract, you’re not going to get much for him, and you have worst players on the team. Plus, If they’re trading Purcell at the deadline who fills his spot?

        I’m not sure why everyone is so ready to throw him out the door.

        • Chet.

          He’ll probably be gone in the offseason, packaged with the 1st.

          Purcell is a trade chip because he is a UFA. Why not send him off and get a nice return? If he is available as UFA in the summer, perhaps PC will evaluate if he will be worth resigning. It’s a smart move pretty much almost every GM will make.

  • ZIN21

    Id like to see Yak on that line for longer than one period before shoving him out the door. But unfortunately its more than likely that Pouliot gets the automatic nod again, even after committing the brutal penalties. Its arguable that Pouliot and Yak’s mistakes were equally bad, but considering how Yakupov has been utilized in the past, its hard to imagine that he gets another shot over Pouliot. It is actually a bit disappointing considering that, if nothing else, playing Yak on that line would at least boost his trade value…it cant get any lower. The season is over barring a spectacular run, so I dont see any reason why Poo should get another shot over yak.

    • Always been a Yak supporter, that play was brutal, however we see 3 six million dollar men doing the same damn thing and just as often, if not more so. But as usual, no benching , no pressbox, no icetime, no special teams reductions, taken away from the Golden Boys. IMO there is a double standard on top of whatever the cancer in the room is. Mac-T signed Poo, guarantee he will be back on that line next game.That protecting your signings is more important than winning or accountability is a good reflection on why we are where we are.The OBC needs to be jettisoned in the off season. That for me is now my line in the sand, Any of Mac T , Howson, Buchberger or Lowe are still on staff(In any capacity), I am done permanently with this joke of a franchise. I dont think I am alone this year, who wants to line up and pay 20% more for the same crap we have been watching ad nauseum.I hope this is the year the paying fans start slinging crap at the owner instead of the other way around.

  • 24% body fat

    Let try this……

    -Nuge and Fayne for Hamonic and Strome

    -Eberle for Barrie

    -Yak, Reinhart and a 2nd for Couturier (or less for lazar

    -Resign greyba

    -Draft Puljijarvi

    -Picks and\or prospects to get Craig Smith (doesnt matter who just an NHL top 9 Right handed Right winger

    -Look at signing Nielsen.

    -open options for lander, letestu, korpikoski

    Center Depth – McDavid, Draisaitl, Couturier, Letestu

    Left Depth – Hall, Pouliot, Kassian, Hendricks*

    Right Depth – Strome*, Puljijarvi, Smith, Paikareinen

    D Depth L/R – Sekera, Barrie, Klefbom, Hamonic, Nurse, Greyba, Davidson

    Bigger, better passing and puck movement, better defensively. Better diversity. Much more center depth. (relative to losing Nuge)

    Nhl options for 2017 from minors

    Khaira*, Slepyshev, Platzer*, Yakimov*, Pitlick
    Winquist

    Osterle, Simpson, Musil,

    *Can play center or has in past.

  • Eulers

    I’m not cutting loose yet. He’s a good, hardworking kid on a value contract. One bad play should not define his career here. He’s got limitations but these are magnified on a bad hockey team.

  • oilerjed

    Ya know I once had a volleyball game where I didnt play a second until the other team was on their winning point and the coach wanted to freeze the server with a substitution. In i go as setter and low and behold there is a bad bump pass and the ball hits me in the face. we lose, Game over.
    The coach started me next game cuz he felt bad but I never looked back and started every game after.

    Comments from McClellan reminded me of that. Yak gets one shot at it, gets a terrible pass in a worse position and flubs it. Fine. But to say that’s it for him is a bit much isn’t it?
    2.5 mil for a .5ppg player is not outrageous is it?
    We know he can produce with McD as he has done it before.

    • vetinari

      $2.5MM for Yak isn’t necessarily too much, but you do have to move on as most of those points were with McAwesome at the start of the year. I could score .5 PPG with McAwesome like Krus scored 50 with Gretz. Move on, taking up a roster spot.

      • oilerjed

        Yak is a career .5ppg player and all but 15 of those were pre McDavid. He is what he is, hustles, hits some and is improving as a 200 foot player (even if he doesn’t properly grab his check he is still the only forward back to breakup fast break rushes).
        And his contract is completely under control for the next 3 years minimum. Who can replace that for what we are paying him?

    • Jay (not J)

      I am a fan of yaks intensity and drive. He has always demonstrated a high compete level but has failed at producing points, routinely being the poorest defence minded forward and an inability to gain hockey knowledge or “smarts” that would help both his offence and defensive side of the game. Unfortunately Yak is the oilers forward version of Justin Schultz. Maybe both of these players can turn their careers around but it won’t be likely or with the oilers. Yaks horrible defensive play more than cancels out his .50 ppg. Doesn’t mean he is not skilled or talented . It just means he can’t put it all together to make him a positive choice that betters the team.

      • oilerjed

        I guess I would argue these two points:

        1) “poorest defence minded forward” that is saying alot on the Oilers to be sure but can you honestly say that Yak plays worse defensively then say Eberle or Korpokoski? I routinely see Yak as the only forward back on rushes, I can’t say the same about the others.

        2) “Yak is the oilers forward version of Justin Schultz” – Yak is expected to put up points, .5ppg isnt what we hoped for but it is points. Yak was never targeted to be a defensive juggernaut, Jultz was supposed to be a Norris winner

  • Ryan14

    Why would McDavid want to play with Yak? Never in the right position, bad with the puck, can’t hit the net, turns the puck over at an alarming level. The love for Yakupov is becoming mystifying. Even Korpikoski, who has been dubbed the new Belanger Triangle, is putting up more goals than Yakupov.

    It’s interesting how, in a city where fans cry about gifting kids spots, everyone wants to gift Yakupov a spot next to the best talent in a generation.

    The love for Yak is starting to reach irrational levels.

  • Will

    It’ so weird that we’ve written this player off, and say things like, we should’ve taken Galchenyuck.

    GO look at each player’s point totals. Not a ton of difference given how many games they’ve played. But given how each player has been used, pfffttt, it’s not even close.

    The yak year was a poor draft year. Yes some good D men came out of it, but they were not rated that high at the time, AND because the Oilers chose Yak, Schultz saw an opportunity here.

    Now it looks bad, but then it looked amazing.

    I don’t think it’s time to give up on this player yet.

    • Jay (not J)

      Poor draft year? I know that the following players have not emerged as top pairing defensemen yet, but at their age, they are progressing rather well. Would you not take any of the following names over Yakapov aside from maybe the one name the Oilers did eventually acquire. Even then, you would have to consider it given the teams need for defensemen over small skilled forwards.

      Ryan Murray
      Jacob Truba
      Hampus Lindholm
      Cody Ceci
      Morgan Reilly
      Matt Dumba
      Griffin Reinheart

      Truba, Lindholm, Reilly, Ceci, and Murray are all getting top 4 minutes and are important contributors on their respective teams. No, it was not a bad draft year, just a 1st overall that didn’t meet expectations and quite frankly was drafted by the wrong team. Yak is an awful fit for the Oilers, and by looking at the above names, we can see drafting for need would have worked out more favorably. That said, hindsight is 20/20 and at the time, it would have been hard to overlook his potential and the likelihood of his continued value.

        • Shameless Plugger

          Remember…. Reinhart isn’t a bust yet… You need to be patient with him he’s only a kid and still improving, he’s only 22(same age as Yak)

          *rolls eyes at all the people who wanna run yak out of town but still defend the Reinhart trade*

          • Shameless Plugger

            Maybe I would agree if Reinhart could skate.

            For a #4 overall, I would expect at least a hint of something more than a career AHL player.

            Unfortunately, career AHL’er he is. There is always a reason a team dumps a high first rounder to another team. One is smart, the other a sucker.

        • Speed Junky

          With first round forwards dal Colle, Ho Sang, Barzal and Bouvillier all performing very well in Juniors I doubt the Islanders have any interest in Hamonic for Yakupov. As a long time Islander fan, I don’t!