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. 


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.


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.



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.


  • bazmagoo

    I said it last night and I’ll say it again. Montreal has two 2nd round picks in the upcoming draft. Nail used to play with Galchenyuk. I think there is a fit there. Frees up a space for either a more polished product via free agency or a prospect. I think Chiarelli pulls the trigger at some stage.

    Totally agree with Robin’s article. When I saw the replay, I thought that was the end of the line for Yak. Losing the puck is one thing, giving up on the play and not checking who you lost the puck to is another. The fact that he has 14 points in 36 games this season is heartbreaking. #YAKCITYFOREVER

  • D

    Yakupov fan here. Sorry to see that he might go. That being said, it’s hard to argue about what happened last night. Had he scored a goal or an assist on that play with McDavid, the whole conversation would be different this morning.

  • bazmagoo

    If we can get a prospect for Schultz that would be awesome, Anthony DeAngelo looks intriguing. I wonder if he played with Nurse at all when he was in the Soo.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • oilerjed

    Not sure this has been said much, but outside of the early run defencemen, offhand it seems that 2012 was not exactly a banner year for talent. It would be nice to have one of those D, but really, there doesn’t seem like a huge miss. Just an off year.

  • Spoils

    love yak. dream of an OT playoff winner… but look Yak’s just not that great. maybe he squeezes one twenty goal season together somewhere else due to luck, but if he did, I bet he’d still be negative on the +/- that year.

    for me the key is this – it is depressing how poorly we monetize our assets. I bet he could have been moved earlier this year (while hot with McD)… Maybe that would have seemed like a bad idea at the time, but you need managers to have vision, and make moves like that so we sell high.

    we have to put lipstick on some of our pigs!

  • oilerjed

    I don’t think that Yak would be moved based on the one bad play last night. You have to take in his entire [almost 4 years] career here and it has not been that great. The biggest issue is that he hasn’t improved or changed his play.
    [ not sure where and how development could have come into play, but that would have had to been done in the AHL level.

    He has the desire, but I think his confidence level meter is at 1,causing him to try and do ten things at one time.

    Nice young man, family and community minded, but this is a mult-million dollar business and moving him could do both he and team some good.

    Hope someone ,somewhere can turn his game around.

  • Jay (not J)

    Yeah, it was pretty hard to defend Yak during the game last night. I did like the way he pushed around a Duck off the faceoff (Remenda said it was Bieksa but I couldn’t make the player out and I have troubles believing that Yak was shoving around Bieksa)but it was too little too late. At this point it doesn’t matter why Yak is where he is today (his fault, Kevin Lowe’s, mine, whatever)it only matters that he is and the Oilers have to turn the page.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ryan14

    My guess is Chiarelli had already decided to move Yak during the off-season before last nights blunder. Guys like him and Purcell are exactly the type of guys he wants to replace with bigger bodies.

    Btw, that type of play – where the wingers need to make a quick play to get the puck out of the zone under pressure – has been doing the Oilers in for the last 10 years or so…

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I was at the game last night and there was a great little moment that I don’t know if the TV cameras caught. Bieksa was chirping Yak off a faceoff and giving him a few whacks on the shinpads. The puck drops and Yak gets two hands in Bieksa’s chest and plants him on his ass. Unfortunately, that was the best thing Yak did all night.

    I love Nail Yakupov the human being. The hockey player…meh. I really hope some other team figures him out and we gripe about the crappy return we got for him for years to come. I’m not going to shed too many tears when he heads out the door though.

  • WhoreableGuy

    You posted a clip of the goal but:

    Why isn’t Eberle getting any flack for turning it over?

    Davidson WHIFFED on the clearing attempted.

    Yakupov should have got it out after Davidson’s flubb, but the whole thing wouldn’t have happened if Eberle just played the puck like a normal hockey player would.

      • Try to follow along. That simply isn’t so.

        Have criticized Yakupov when I’ve seen fit and praised him when he’s performed well (which hasn’t happened nearly often enough). Completely open-minded about having Yakupov step up and make his case with the new coaching staff in this item from September. http://oilersnation.com/2015/9/20/opportunity-knocks. Maybe you missed that one — and some others before it.

      • wilco

        Agree that some players (Yak) get singled out more than others (Eberle), but one’s a #1 overall with 102 pts in 228 games (.45), the other isn’t, and has 317 in 401 (.8). All about expectations.

        • sesame_oil

          I think for expectations , I based it on pay and not draft ranking. ebs makes 6 mill. Also not saying yak is a better player than Ebs as that is not true. They were developed differently. Ebs always played top 6 and always had consistent line mates while yak was moving around with new people except the brief stint with Roy. Yak said he needed a consistent center to tell him what to do (mentor). Even Simpson on the radio said that his first year in Edmonton he consistently played with mess and Anderson and knew his role to not carry the puck. Yak never got the consistent line mates for a season like many good players here.

  • Oilers-Entourage

    Maybe Johnathan Druinan for YAK? Both sides taking somewhat of a chance, Tampa gets a player right now and on a value contract. While Oilers receive a player who isnt playing and could play and a change in teams could potentially benefit both players.

  • toprightcorner

    Yak is like a premature ejaculator (not pointing fingers at you BM), when he gets the chance to play with someone he wants to, he gets all excited, races around, makes mistakes and blows his wad.

  • Seanaconda

    Obviously Yak has to be stronger on that play. That said, why is there no blame on Davidson?

    I don’t mean to absolve Yak, but I don’t necessarily agree with the statement: “Yakupov couldn’t get a handle on a puck cleared to him along the boards by Brandon Davidson”.

    I wouldn’t call that as puck cleared TO him. To me, the Davidson’s play looked rushed/panicked – he just through it out. It wasn’t to Yak.


    • Chet.

      Yes, Davidson may not have had the greatest clearing attempt, but it went right to Yakupov who did literally nothing except fumble the puck and all he had to do was a simple chip out of the zone.

      Blame tends to go to the player that isn’t performing and plays lost when on the ice.

      It’d be nice to have Yakupov work out, but I don’t think it will, so why not move on?

      • Jay (not J)

        But that’s just my point: All Davidson “had to do was a simple chip out of the zone”. But again, I do agree Yak wasn’t nearly as good. I’m not tying to absolve him.

        As a fan of the Oilers and Yak, I get frustrated when fans zone in on him. Both Yak and Davidson (as well as Davidson’s follow up play where he let the play spin and pass the puck) could have done better, so why focus just on Yak?

        As much as it pains me, I do hope Yak is moved on. Not because he is a bust, but a change of scenery is needed. No room for 4 1st overalls, with a potential top 5 on its way.

        If we are to believe what has been said, Yak was never the intended target but a Katz demand. Under these circumstance, regardless of the type of work an individual may work in, circumstances tend to be more difficult and its best for all involved to part way.

        It just a damn shame we give up a 1st overall for what may amount to more magic beans.

        • Jay (not J)

          Who has said that Katz forced the Yak pick? I don’t even remember reading speculation on that point from anywhere else but comments sections on webpages. No credible source (that I am aware of) has said that they know that this happened. If you can cite an example then please excuse my doubt, but from what I recall that is entirely speculation.

    • S cottV

      Yak had to seize the moment and failed to do so.

      He had to play it safe and clear that puck out of the zone – immediately, no hesitation.

      The reason I say that is that bad things come in waves. An initial attempt to clear got messed up and the puck bounced back into the zone. We’re riding a bad wave – it’s looking too fugly to play with. The puck gets worked to Yak and in this position and in his position or standing with the Coach, he’s gotta be saying – just get it the f outta here. But no – his over handling tendencies get the better of him, he gets stripped and it turns over. Worse – he has a chance to recover and stay with the man who stripped him, but is too slow to react.

      While a tough situation for the d, I didn’t like the way the turnover was defended.

      Davidson closes in on I think Kesler and tries to contain him running across the rink from left, clear across to right.

      Schultz – was on the right side and I think should have had more awareness for the greater threat coming from the Davidsons vacated left, where (had Schultz been looking) – Yak had lost his man.

      Whenever one d man crosses over to his partners side, there should almost always be an immediate counter cross by his partner, to take up that vacated space.

      It’s a stretch because it’s big time mostly on Yak, but Shultz might have saved Yak’s @ss, with a better read and react.

  • Chet.

    If the return is as low as we all expect, thoughts on sending him down to the AHL to attempt to get his confidence back? Or does he require waivers? A LONG stint in the AHL might do wonders for his confidence. See if he can score 30 in the A then some team will surely give up a lot more for him. He scored in Jr, with his confidence back he should be able to score in the A. He is only 22, maybe the AHL is what he needs. Either way I think we already have too many softer players who don’t score enough and aren’t good enough defensively, but if there’s no return, maybe the A would be somthing to look at.

  • S cottV

    The turnover was brutal on Yaks part but it doesn’t change what he is.

    A highly skilled 22 year old player with a value contract. You give him another off season of training and a fresh start next year and see where he is at before pulling the plug.

    He was playing hard trying to make up for his mistake and made some good plays afterwards. He needs to play with that aggressiveness every shift.

    • S cottV

      Value contract?

      Based on what a few points?

      If most of his intangibles were strong, I might agree.

      Unfortunately – Its quite the opposite. His intangibles are awful.

      Yak will not play top 6 on this team. It isn’t there.

      Yak is not a bottom 6 type player.

      We are paying him 2.5mm and he’s a big part of a dysfunctional 3rd line.

      At some point – we’re gonna need a functional 3rd and 4th line.

      Time to accept whatever his current value is and move on.

      • You just got LITT up!

        He’s affordable. He has the potential to be a reliable player, and at 22 he is poised to breakout at any time now.

        It is a low risk to hold onto the player through next year.

        Do you truly feel there is no way this player can improve by this time next year?

        If Chia can get value back for him, great, he’s definitely moveable. But given his contract, it’s not time to sell low on this asset.

  • I’ve always been a fan of Yakupov and I feel like most of OilersNation did their best to support him.

    At the end of the day the NHL is a results based business and he was drafted to put points on the board. That isn’t happening, and even the biggest Yakupov supporters have to admit it may be best for the player and the organization to part ways.

    I’m with you on this Robin, I don’t see Yakupov as being apart of the solution.