While kids in neighborhoods right across the city were loading up on chocolate Easter Sunday, word of Nail Yakupov’s pre-deadline trade request, made to the Edmonton Oilers through agent Igor Larionov, was making the rounds on the internet.

Unhappy with his lot in life in his fourth season with the Oilers, who are playing out the string yet again and destined to miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season, the revelation drew an eye-roll in some corners, like this one, and had finger-pointers doing their thing in others. Here’s the Tweet from Igor Eronko of Sport-Express that got tongues wagging.

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There was more, from Josh Cooper of Yahoo Sports, who ran some excerpts of an interview Yakupov did with Sport-Express in San Jose last week. The item from Cooper is here.

Did you request a trade?

“Yes, I did. But not in person, my job is just to play hockey. Agent was dealing with this.”

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When you came to a point to get traded, was there any ground to think it would happen?

“Absolutely. As far as I know trade has come very close. I’ve been out of a suitcase. Me and my agent Igor Larionov were given permission to talk to other teams. A number of teams were interested. But at the last moment something went wrong. And I’m still here.”

Four seasons and 248 games into his NHL career with the Oilers, a tenure that’s seen Yakupov enjoy little success performing his one trick, save for the final three games of his rookie season, while bouncing up and (mostly) down the line-up matched and mismatched with different linemates, I can understand his frustration after all this time. The problem is, we’ve seen this from Larionov and Yakupov before.



It took all of 17 games into Yakupov’s sophomore season with the Oilers for Larionov to start complaining about how his client was being used by rookie coach Dallas Eakins, who’d taken over from Ralph Krueger, the man at the helm for Yakupov’s 17-goal rookie season. From Nov. 11, 2013:

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If you recall, Yakupov scored six goals, including a hat-trick against the Vancouver Canucks, in the final three games of the shortened 2012-13 season. Some people, Larionov included, assumed the hot finish meant Yakupov was on his way. Then came Eakins, the know-it-all who healthy scratched his man to start 2013-14. Yakupov went sideways. 

I’m not going to defend Eakins or re-visit all the back-and-forth about how, when and with whom Yakupov was played – there’s plenty of blame to go around and you can look it up – but the result was that at the first real sign of adversity, of a situation unfolding that Larionov and Yakupov didn’t care for, they started making noise about a trade.

At the time, I had some sympathy for Yakupov, who had scored just 2-2-4 through 17 games. That was, in large part, because the Oilers have been a train wreck with player development and I considered Eakins incompetent, a rookie coach in over his head and somebody without the first clue about how to best employ his player personnel.

Players can survive that situation, and have done so here, but they have to succeed in spite of, not because of, the coach. Instead, Larionov and Yakupov went the me-me-me route. “We’re willing to make a move. Any team.” That was 65 games, less than a full season, into Yakupov’s tenure in Edmonton. That’s pulling the chute pretty quick in my books. Sunday, more of the same.

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So, with his trade value almost less-than-zero just four years removed from being the first overall selection in a 2012 draft that wasn’t very good, Yakupov and Larionov are talking about moving along again. Where might he go? What might Pete Chiarelli get in return for Yakupov?

Doesn’t matter and not much. Is there a team out there that actually believes Yakupov is worth taking a flyer on after watching him play for four seasons? Is there any market for a one-trick pony, a goal-scorer, who has just 48 goals in 248 games? Sure, to hear Yakupov tell it. Good. We’ll see what the return is this summer.

It’s past time for the Oilers to move Yakupov along for whatever they can get and close the book on the Yak City debate that’s produced a lot of noise but little in the way of results. After all, this is a player who has had one eye on the door since the first time the cards didn’t fall his way. Adios.

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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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  • forsoothed

    Two things can be true at the same time:
    1) Yak hasn’t been good enough here and not taken enough advantage of the chances he’s been given.

    2) He’s consistently been put in a position to fail while other players (Schultz, Gagner) were consistently spoon-fed minutes and never questioned for huge deficiencies in their game.

    It’s pretty clear that Yak’s ceiling is likely as a complimentary winger. A useful player type, but too bad he was taken 1st overall.

  • McPucker

    Yak needed time in the minors. He does seem to love them game but he needs to learn to play a more complete game. Problem is Yak didn’t want to go there and the Oilers didn’t have enough depth to force the issue.

    Seems to me the word was Yak was not going to play in the AHL. This is where the Russian Factor comes in. It isn’t as good of league but it is closer to home.

    Sending him to OKC would have allowed for a call up at some point. Him signing in the KHL will have caused access problems for the Oilers, both short term and long term.

    I don’t blame Yak for being frustrated at this point. I don’t blame him for asking for a trade. I don’t blame the Oilers for obliging him at this point. His current contract should help.

    I do blame Yak and the Oilers for developmental concerns.

    • Seanaconda

      Lockout year he played in the khl but I think he was too young to play in the ahl so it made sence. I honestly think if he goes to a team that has an established system that hasn’t changed coaches a thousand times he may have a chance. His effort is there he just may be a little slow.

  • BlazingSaitls

    As I stated in a previous post. Igor Larionov can go suck eggs! He has been deleterious to Yak’s NHL career. As much, if not more so, than Dallas Eakins.

  • 15w40

    Not making excuses for the player but this organization has a habit of bad development and selling low or at least not maximizing assets.

    Jultz would be exhibit A
    Petry would be the next example

    All Yakupov knows is what he has learned in Edmonton, and in Edmonton the high draft picks get elevated to plum playing minutes just cuz.

    I don’t have any direct examples but have seen it in print where by a player that had been in Edmonton goes to a new organization and quickly finds out that they just thought they were working hard or were doing everything to win until they got to their new team.

    Or conversely a coach or manager will be asked about an ex player acquired from Edmonton and will comment on “bad habits” that had to be removed from their game or routine.

    I don’t think the organization can be entirely absolved from responsibility for the player’s outcome to date.

  • dougtheslug

    The real kick in the pills, of course, is that Yak ( and Hall, and RNH) became Oiler “problems” because of the “master plan” of Lowe, Katz, et al to rebuild the 1984 Oilers, by constructing teams to lose, to accumulate elite skill in the draft, wait a few years, and Presto! Instant Cup Contender. That was Plan A .

    Unfortunately, for Oiler fans who paid major league dollars to watch minor league teams, for Oiler fans everywhere who had to endure watching their team’s descent from legend to laughing stock, and to the players who spent the best years of their careers playing out the string from January to April and being harmed by a losing culture, there was no plan B.

    We are still living with the results of the Katz- Lowe era, and will continue until Chiarelli et al , can return us to NHL mediocrity, which, after this monumentally messed up decade, is the best we can aspire to in the foreseeable future.

  • Jack Dupp

    Hello Sergei Samsonov 2.0…

    The kid has skill and ability. What he never really received was proper development, coaching and support. Best for both sides to cut bait and move on.

  • boknowes

    This is a good summary of Yak and the so-called Russian factor.

    Regardless of player’s country of origin, when an organization (sports, business, etc.) takes someone who has heart, is passionate and loves what they do and “breaks” them, it’s an organizational failure.

    The lack of accountability at all levels of the Oilers organization the past few years is mind-blowing. How do you successfully develop and motivate players when they are all held to different performance standards? The “Oilers process” is textbook on how NOT to build a successful team.

    What really galls me as a season ticket holder is watching two of the so called core who have been consistent for 5 seasons with their weak/lack of effort on back checking, skate away from scrums without sticking up for their teammates, won’t go into the tough spots for puck battles, make same mistakes over and over again, YET aren’t held to same standard as Yak. Talk about sending mixed messages to players!

    I had hoped this was going to change under Tmac and Chia, so far the evidence shows it remains the same.

    Yak worst ever Oiler first round pick? Really? Bonsignore, Stajudhar, Kelly, to name just a few, were better?

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I think at this point, it’s time to move on. Yak has been like Schultz. Just a distraction for the last 4 years with little to no improvement. He’s just taking up a roster spot. Let’s bring in another guy like maroon who can actually change the dynamic of this team.

  • geeker99

    Yak reminds me of Pavel Brendl, tears it up in junior but is still a minus player. 120 points and a minus player. Should have been sent to the Barons until he was a plus player. especially when he plays on the worst defensive team in the NHL.

  • paul wodehouse

    …248games 107pts and MINUS 92 including 22 games in the K…disagree with RB in that quitter Russians are everywhere …not all are but even the great8 has his moments…good riddance yak city

  • McPucker

    Galchenyuk fired Larionov for yes giving him fatherly advice, but deflating his self worth to realistic levels. If Yak had a different agent I think he would have been traded 2 years ago, because Larionov actually does try and get the player to play the right way and work with the organisation.

    /\ this is from Camdog in today’s game day. It’s a good read. I agree it’s time for Yak to move on but Galchenyuk was in a similar situation not long ago and this is a good indication of how things can change.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    It’s too bad it didn’t work out. Not every #1 pick is a Hall or McDavid. How many lottery picks do we need to at least get out of the NHL basement?

  • The Perceptor

    This whole situation really upsets me. Nail is one of my favourites here. And with so many coaches and a whirlwind of different styles, that’s enough to cause trouble. But for this young man to be tossed on lines with 4th line talent, it never made sense. So it came down to an angry agent to step up and say, hey, this isn’t right. So us fans here suffered all season the year we drafted him, for ultimately nothing. His value is criminally low, so it’s a crying shame. I personally think we need to give this young man a fair chance, which would mean long, consistent periods of time with top 1 and 2 line talent. I still think, at 22, there is a great player in there. Edmonton staff really dropped the ball here, and now us fans are paying the price. Just great.

  • The Perceptor

    I wrote this in the game day wrap after the Los Angeles loss:

    “As well, it seemed obvious that the tempo and intensity was high in this one, and despite the minuses, I thought Yakupov had, more often than not, played a great game. It looked to me like Hall’s speed forced Yak to play faster and shiftier, and with some added edge and will. Despite this, he still failed to find the open lanes to receive a pass when in the offensive zone, during most rushes. At 2.5M, I’d have him here next season and continue to work with him in the hopes that he may be a player similar to Samsonov in the ’06 run, only he’ll be ours, not a rental.”

    So the very next day the news breaks of his trade request. I think we all sensed it, so maybe my post was wishful thinking. Sad thing is I really think he can be Samsonov 2.0. Oilers blew it big time with Yak. And that extra edge he was playing with in LA is now evidently so he’ll get the trade he wants.

    • McPucker

      Yak playing with edge.

      I posted a while ago that he plays best when he plays with an edge. That’s what he did while he was playing well for Todd Nelson.

      He was almost Tikkanese-like.

  • Lots of you talking about Yakapov being put in a position to fail.

    Why don’t you accept that on many, many occasions he was also put in a position to ACHEIVE, BUT FAILED.

    Talk all you want about him being replaced by Eberle alongside McDAVID, but he scored 2 goals in 9-10 games while being gifted that opportunity. Forget the assist, he’s a GOAL SCORER, REMEMBER ?

    That equates to about 18 goals over 82 game season. So, for expectations from fans and organization, he’s a complete failure.

    Any return is a positive. Actually, subtraction is a positive in this case.

    The IQ and/or desire to be a team player, is not there.

    • hitchikerforajax

      The problems with Yak, is he is a player, who thinks he’s better, than just about everyone, absent him & his agent. He is lazy, defensively challenged & really isn’t that good offensively. He misses 99% of the time, trying to hit the net, with the decent shot, he does have. The Oilers would of been better, to trade him, for anything, because his laziness, causes more goals scored, while he’s on the ice, compared to what he has to offer, offensively!! This pick, was awful from the start. But, I guess, that’s why the team, is as bad as they are & have little chance of getting better, anytime soon.

  • K.Pal

    OK let me get this straight……Yak to whoever for the preverbal bag of pucks….. Eberle to NY for Harmonik …. 1st round pick for another defenceman…. and our first line right wing is………………..Hmmmmmmmmmm. What’s wrong with this picture?

  • K.Pal

    Interesting….. 2 blogs almost back to back about the same story on the same player..Overkill ??

    Maybe or maybe Robin felt Lowetide was being tooo nice and had to post a second to properly destroy Yak….which apparently half of ON feels they have to do as well.

    Amazing the polarization this one player has created. But honestly, his time here is done and I wish him nothing but good elsewhere. I really cannot understand the compulsion to bring such wrath down on a 22 yr old kid who is simply trying to succeed in a sport he apparently loves.

    • Two takes on Yakupov separated by 18 hours and three other items is “almost back-to-back” and “overkill?”

      Also, feel free to point out anything in the item that is inaccurate or unduly harsh and meant to “properly destroy Yak.”

      As an aside, your comment here (114) is a cut and paste of the same comment you ran in another thread. Avoid doing that, if possible.

  • Jordan88

    Yakupov is a top 6 forward in the NHL.

    I can see it, and several other GM’s can see it.

    He just won’t be on our top six, he needs to go to a team with stability.

    I have no doubts that the mixture of 1st overall pedigree, a rookie gm a rookie coach and a fanbase that expected Stamkos level scoring was the reason for his eventual down fall.

    This coach buried him on the bottom six, and tried to teach a natural shooter a flawed defensive system. The GM watched this coach run his circus act which lead to a very public outcry from an agent upset with his clients treatment.

    If I owned the Oilers and seen my asset treated like a door mat I would have been on the first flight back to edmonton and fired the entire works.

    Good luck Yakupov I hope you get to hold the Stanley cup one day.

    • I would have fired all of MacT, Eakins, Klowe and Howsen, and all the scouts on November 1 of 2013 after watching the complete debacle that was beginning. At least Katz woke up finally. All it took was a generational player falling into his lap. Even though, I’m not 100% sold on Mclellan, but Chia is winning me over, getting big players who can contribute. the stains on his resume, being Reinhart, Korpi, and Letestu.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      The parts that I disagree with are that: he was buried in the 6 and about the owner seeing his asset treated like a doormat.

      He is a really hard worker who has tons of skill but looks like he never learned to play hockey. He was always so much better than his teammates growing up and could get away with not playing in any system because he would get the puck. Now that he has to go get it he looks lost. The only way to learn is to play and it shouldn’t be at the expense of the rest of the team. The Oilers suck as a team and he isn’t learning but he can’t be sent down. So he had to be given a bottom 6 job. He wasn’t buried.

      If the rumours are true, Katz vetoed taking Murray. After having his fingers in the pie for far too long, it’s best that the owner steps back and let the professionals (Nichols and Chiarelli; not Lowe and McTavish) do their jobs.

      I like the kid but I’ll be happy only seeing him play twice a year.

  • Valar Morghulis

    Yak’s request for a trade should result in the immediate dismissal of Lowe, MacT, and Howson.

    I personally hope this team never wins while employing those incompetent fools. I would rather lose forever than see them high fiving each other in the press box after a playoff win.

  • Doctor Smashy

    This is a very irritating thread but hopefully the last one on I will state up front that I like Yakupov and have sympathy for his situation…take that for what you will.

    The Yakupov situation, like many that have played out in Edmonton over the last 10 years, has been a complete disaster. In no particular order…

    1. As we learned from some reports, Yakupov was not the first choice of the scouting staff and they were overruled by ownership (if you believe the stories). Yakupov was what he was and that may not have been enough to be a first overall pick. Someone else wrote it on this thread that he was probably so much better than his peers that he never really learned to play properly. I think that is plausible and explains a lot of what he has struggled with. That said, he was viewed by 30 teams as a top 5 pick at the very least. I think we can dispense with idea that somehow he sucks and shouldn’t be in the NHL.

    2. Yakupov struggled after his first season but he did it alongside Justin Schultz. They started at the same time. Yakupov faced more media attention (and answered it with sincerity and often with apologies), was held to a higher standard by coaches and management, and was punished for mistakes when Schultz was not. For all those who like to sneer at him (Yak) to ‘put on his big boy pants’ and be thankful that he is in the NHL at all I say get real. Most posters here would be outraged if one quarter of the unequal treatment that Yakupov endured defined their working environment. Yakupov endured this from the age of 18. Sure…hockey players make lots of money but they are people. No one should need a time machine to imagine how they would have reacted if they faced this at 18.

    3. Anyone who doesn’t think that Yakupov is vilified because he is Russian hasn’t been paying attention. Nothing Yakupov ever did suggested he would bolt to the KHL. From day 1 he was vilified by many (and I mean pundits and posters alike) for being ‘just another Russian prima donna’. It was and is ugly. Nail Yakupov wants to play in the NHL.

    4. The last 10 years of Oilers hockey has been marred by lacklustre effort and players (top tier ones) cashing out. Nail Yakupov always tried. Always. It took years for most people to scrutinize Justin Schultz and notice that he hardly tried. Yakupov never stopped trying. For anyone watching to not notice that Yakupov tried his a$$ off every game is to willfully ignore it. Sure he looked like he was stickhandling a beehive but he wanted to put that beehive in the net. Anyone who thought he didn’t try should read #3 again.

    5. Nail Yakupov might be a secondary scorer. Maybe he should have been been drafted somewhere in the top 10 and not first overall. Being picked first (by Katz) is not his fault. Make no mistake, he would have been drafted in the top 5. After that happened, he played and he tried. Anyone who is gleefully celebrating his undeniable failure here in Edmonton should ask themselves (including you Robin), what would you tell your son if they were in the same position. Would you tell him to try harder? Done. Would you tell him to stick it out? Almost 250 games. Seriously ask yourself how you would feel if Nail Yakupov was your son. Now imagine if your son was Justin Schultz. If you would have harsher words for Nail than you would for Justin then you need to give your head a shake.

    6. Robin, I like your articles and I like your writings on personal stuff. We are both fathers. It would have been nice if you chose “Sail on Nail” instead of “Fail Yakupov” as your headline. I think the latter is beneath you. Honestly, it sounds like the only thing that would satisfy you is for Nail Yakupov to simply BE better at hockey instead of try every night (which he did) and try to improve (which he did). I for one wish him the best. I would be impressed if my sons react to a similar situation with half of the character that Yakupov has when they are 18 – 22.

    • Appreciate your input.

      The “FAIL YAKUPOV” headline is really nothing more than a play on his first name that fits the circumstances, nothing more.

      I don’t feel the need to coddle this player and neither do I feel compelled to hammer him every time the chance presents itself — I don’t think, if you look at everything I’ve written about him, that I have. The bottom line is it hasn’t worked out.

      If there’s one thing I really haven’t liked, and I mentioned it in the item, is that from virtually the first time Yakupov faced adversity here — 17 games into his second season — Larionov has been playing the trade card. I doubt he does that without Yakupov approving of the tactic.

      • Doctor Smashy

        I sincerely appreciate your response as well. I completely agree that it hasn’t worked out. The question for me is what can be done about it (and to a lesser extent, who is to blame). I think you are right that it isn’t about coddling but given the (at least what I feel to be) popular sentiment that he is some ‘pouty Russian’ I think it is important to acknowledge that, in general, he has been treated more harshly by the Oilers than other players. I have never seen you to be anything but objective about the mis-steps of Oilers management and I agree that Larionov has been a problem. I keep coming back to the fact that Yakupov is 22 and (as Jonathan Drouin does) trusts his agent. If he was my son, I might tell him to drop Larionov but at the same time, I have to wonder what I would tell him to do differently on the ice. It wasn’t 10 minutes ago on the dish from McDavid that Remenda took a shot about Yak’s body language. It just really riles me because I don’t think anyone has taken the kind of scorn he has…it seems like too many people take pleasure in the failures of ‘some millionaire’ when he is just a kid who might not be as good as some people thought. As an Oiler fan I hope we get something good for him but as a father I hope he can just play somewhere and pretend he was drafted lower in a draft that had 8 defencemen drafted in the top 10.

        Apologies if I sounded shrill.

    • How is Justin Schultz even a part of this argument for Yak? And the son comparisons c’mon man.

      Yak was a number #1 pick of course he was going to be held to a higher standard and guess what he didn’t come close to living up to even mediocre standards.

      He needs out of Edmonton like a lot of other players. Maybe he will flourish on another team or become the proverbial bust that currently defines him right now but spare me “it’s not his fault” argument. As dysfunctional as the Oil management is (just behind the Cleveland Brown and NY Jets in terms of North American franchises) they are not to blame.

      Better days await the Oilers and Nail– just not together…