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  

  • toprightcorner

    If we could get Anthony DeAngelo for Schultz, I’m all in. He has shown great offense but also has grit. At worst he ends up playing like Schultz at 1/3rd the price.

  • passenger

    Not a fan, and his fanboys drive me up the GD wall, but he scores third line points and does third line checking for a decent third line price. I think there are bigger concerns right now. See if he’ll agree to some time in the AHL, and send him down for a conditioning stint. Can they do that, Brownlee?

      • camdog

        Yes you are correct LD does look like he could potentially play the off wing, he can make moves with his back hand that others simply can’t. Truthfully though every other Oiler looks awful when they play on their wrong side. Yak and Eberle can’t play left side. Sekera is a better overall d-man than Petry, but he can’t play the right side. Davidson makes bad plays on the right side that he doesnt make on the left side.

        • Seanaconda

          Yak is a leftie (well shoots left) he always plays his off side.(right) And I have never seen Eberle put on the left side but that is where he seems to score from. Kind of like how hemsky played.

  • Cain

    Goes to show how much all the “professional scouts”, know about what constitutes a good hockey player. Now I’m not saying they do not get it right most of the time……..but evaluating hockey players is not a science, more of an art.

    Absolutely everyone had Yaks as the concensus first over all pick and now it appears they all had it wrong. I sure hope we have improved in that department so we do not end up with another Yaks.

    I personally am still pulling for Yaks, but watching him play lately is painful……..he seems to have no hockey sense at all!

  • Cain

    -80 and that aint the temp in Edmonton. May be in the KHL where YAK
    is likely headed. Too Bad , we all or most liked him.

    But i drive for Uber [ kidding] and my seats are down in my Jeep

    get in Yak and Jultz.

    Too bad.

    • oilerjed

      I get that Yak is the new Gagner but if you are looking at his +- then you are missing that in year 1 he was -4, years 2-3 were a train wreck (but if you look at the rest of the oilers there were many huge ballooning +- ratings. This year he is -9, not stellar by any means but much improved.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • wilco

    Griffin Reinhart – 22years old. MSM tells us the trade for him isn’t a bust and he needs more time to develop

    Nail Yakupov – 22years old. Actually playing in the NHL. MSM tells us he’s a bust and needs to thrown out

    Is there a reason for the stark contrast?

    • oiler_head

      I don’t know maybe because one is a defenseman who supposed to take longer to develop and the other was a first overall who hasn’t shown any improvement in his game in 4 years.

      Yakupov has been really hurt by not ever playing in the AHL. Maybe the best thing is that Reinhart is in the AHL.

      Don’t know, don’t care. I would like to see him waived to the minors but he will never make it through. So, next best is to go elsewhere

    • sesame_oil

      Yes, watch a game of both of them and you will see. Reinhart battles hard and wins some of those battles. He also has calmer feet and plays with more intelligence and hockey sense than Yak. Kid tries hard but often has no idea what he is doing on the ice and neither do his teammates. The other teams know how to defend Yak, stand him up or put him on his ass!
      It’s hard to teach hockey sense, and smarts. You either have it or you don’t. It’s time to move on from Yak and Hall for the same reasons, skill is their, questionable hockey IQ and will to win. I hated Hall’s comment in his post game interview yesterday, claiming they deserved at least a point. WTF? Are you playing to tie nowadays? A loss means you gotta dig deeper instead of pacifying yourself with a pat on the back for ALMOST getting a win! When players say things like this, they show that they think they put in enough effort to win and that they don’t need to try any harder. This is why he is not captain material on any team that wants to win, and this is why I feel we need to move the player while his stock is still somewhat high. Other GMs around the league aren’t blind or stupid so Oilers fans will always think we are getting less coming back in a trade involving Hall, but let’s face it, he isn’t going to win you any cups on his own. Case in point, McDavid’s return rejuneated the club. Hall was able to get some points in McDavid’s absence, but was unable to elevate the team. PERIOD. Not the leader some thought he was a few years ago.

      • I think Hall was giving an honest assessment of the game. Edmonton wasn’t badly outplayed. They were well in the game in the 3rd period, and really were playing well enough to get to overtime against the hottest team in the league right now.

        Sometimes you play well, but lose anyway.

      • Jay (not J)

        Man, a guy comes into the league who may be the best player to come on in 30 odd years and he’s the standard that you want to hold Hall to? Trade him now because his stock is somewhat high – the assumption being that when the league learns of his horrible character flaws his value will plummet? 29 GMs wish you were working for the Oilers.

    • Shameless Plugger

      Yes to create debate and arguments. Same goes for radio one host takes position “a” the other position “b”. It would be boring if they just agreed on everything all the time. The very reason they contradict themselves almost daily in articles and on radio.

      But don’t ever call them out on it or you’re considered a troll.

    • yes, that isolated incident isn’t solely on him, but his general play all round is his fault. If he was playing better generally, the play last night wouldn’t be an issue. At some point these things are no longer mistakes, but indicators of ability.

  • sesame_oil

    Yak is a bust because he was brought in PURELY for scoring goals, that’s it. So if you’re a #1 who’s not scoring goals, when that is the ONLY reason you were drafted, yea it’s a problem.

    But let’s say for the sake of argument that he’s trying, he’s not a bad guy just in a bad slump. So to that I would say instead of getting himself down because of lack of goal scoring, he should be working on other parts of his game. Making safe plays, being hard to play against in the d-zone, throwing some hits around, actually trying to get the puck back… Absolutely anything that can help the team no matter how small it seems, and we are not having this conversation.

    Yak is a bust because he does nothing well and is completely clueless when it comes to game situations. He moves at light speed but his decisions are a second or two slow. He is the Anthony Bennett of the NHL, no. 1 pick who will be out of the league some day sooner than we think.

  • For me, Yak has not amounted to much more than a player like Sam Gagne. He is a player who’s skill set suggests top 6 but just cannot prove himself in that role at this level on anything resembling a consistent basis. Whereas he is also defensively inept and lost in the bottom 6. Also, in a bottom 6 role, his offensive talents are somewhat wasted. So he doesn’t fit the mold of being an effective player in either role. Which makes it very hard to coach a player like this and determine where to place him in the lineup. Especially when you consider the politics and pressures that a coach would have to play a 1st overall pick.

    I just think the importance of a solid third line is overlooked in all this Yak talk. This role should be reserved for defensively sound, aggressive checking type players, who have some ability to create chances. Players who’s offensive contribution is a secondary goal to keeping the puck out of there net and making life miserable for the opposition. So if Yak doesn’t fit this mold, and he doesn’t fit in with the top 6 on this team, he needs to move on for his sake and for the team to get better.

    Khaira deserves another look and plays the style you want on a 3rd line. Khaira – Letestu – Kassian could have the making of a real NHL caliber 3rd line. They would certainly make the team harder to play against and have some decent offensive skills as well. The season is all but over at this point, so it be good to see what Khaira can do with another shot.

  • Robin, don’t pretend that was an opportunity. Why didn’t they put Ebs on the left side? Oh right, b/c he would have been less than useless. When the Nuge returns and Ebs goes back to his proper centre pairing, Yak will return to form. Enough lambasting a guy b/c he doesn’t fit your preconceived round hole while being a square peg. You learned pundits have to stop forcing a “system” or “style” on this squad. Guess what if there were 30 teams built like Chicago, or 30 built like LA there would still be 29 teams failing to win the championship and 14 failing to make the cut-line. Part of the game is figuring out how to win with what you got. It’s a team game, not a two line scoring / two line support game. You need balance of scoring and play from all four lines. How about focussing on building four solid lines, and dropping all the preconceptions as to how you have to play to succeed. Example — if you don’t think Yak and McD could wreak havoc in this league as a third line, you are severely blind; even if that were to draw the oppositon’s top D, it would open up opportunity for Hall & Drai or Nuge and Ebs. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who scores when you win games, what matters is putting other teams in an impossible situation of having to over play one or two lines while we can rest and rotate three or four. Let’s discuss how to get out of this funk not how to extend it by continuing the ongoing recycling of talent to no avail.

  • Mike Wazowski

    I think most people have gotten fed up with Yak on that sequence had less to do with him not getting the puck out of the zone and far more with the time it took him to figure out he needed to backcheck his man.

    That’s what we haven’t seen develop in his game in the last 4 years along with his hockey sense.

  • You just got LITT up!

    Do people actually know who DeAngelo is? If so, you guys seriously need a hobby … Mine is drinking. Some random player from the OHL, who is now in the AHL and people can speak about him? I’m impressed.

  • Jay (not J)

    Yak needs another look on another team start him in the ahl as first line winger next season. Let him play 17 mins a night on top 6.

    Hopefully russia world Cup team takes him and gives him a good look and he gets confidence it’s not going to happen 3 shifts with eberle and mcdavid.

  • sesame_oil

    As far as Yak goes, there are many great thing to say about him personally. But he is a hockey player, and he has shown us for a few years what he has to offer. It isn’t enough. We can blame the several coaches, and several GMs, and even the both Presidents of Hockey Operations. Many players on our roster have gone through the same changes and have adapted. If rumours are right, and Yak was selected at the insistence of Katz, then obviously he bet on the wrong pony. It doesn’t matter where he plays, or his line mates, Yak is giving his best. It’s not enough. I still think he should have spent a couple years in Oklahoma. Big personality—but that doesn’t win games. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was playing in the KHL in 5 years

  • Jay (not J)

    Yak = Daigle

    Unfortunately the Oilers had the worst scouting team in the league, look at the 2003 NHL draft for a bad trade and pick.

    So, don’t judge the players.

    Judge the dip sh$ts like Lowe and Mac T for completely creating the culture of losing.

    Chia needs to fire everyone, scouting, Mac T, Lowe, Howson to start to get rid of the culture.

  • Other Oiler sites have done some analysis. They’ve concluded that Korpikoski Is arguably the single worst player in the NHL who gets regular minutes. Worse than Yak, worse than Jultz. Yet he plays every game, gets regular PP time, etc. There aren’t hundreds of comments about how he needs to be traded for tape, or sent to the KHL. I think the singling out of Yak is why you see some fans stand up for him.

    Drai made a bad play that led to a goal. The commentators simply said, he can’t make that bad pass. There wasn’t a hundred posts about Drai’s mistake, but there are hundreds about Yak’s mistake. I do recognize that it’s not about one single mistake. It’s about a body of work that people aren’t happy with.

    I fully expect Yak to be traded this off-season, btw. It’s been clear for a while that Yak is not a coach’s favorite, so he’s better off with a veteran team to play for.

  • oilerjed

    “he hacked the stick out of Ryan Kesler’s hands for no reason”

    That’s not what I saw, I saw Kesler take a questionable hit on Pou then he went to give Kesler a little hack and his stick fell out of his hands magically. This was a set play and Kesler knew Pou was coming. Take a look at the tape. Kesler loosened the handle on his stick, I saw it coming a mile away.

    Kesler is a cheap player and a fool, a damned fool.

  • Seanaconda

    For forwards the benefit of playing your natural side vs offwing is less. For the ozone your offwing gives you a better shooting angle and the ability to use a one timer easier where in the dzone playing your natural side makes it easier to receive passes in front of you and not get killed by a suicide pass looking back for the puck. While also being stronger on the boards.it would be interesting to see a system where players switch sides when going into different zones but the benefit would probably be outweighed by the time it takes to cross