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.
Nail Yakupov: ‘I asked a trade and #Oilers gave a permission to speak to other teams, about 8 of them were interested, but smth went wrong’
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) March 27, 2016
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.”
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:
If EDM unhappy with him, Larionov said Yak open to trade: “We’re willing to make a move. Any team. That happens and that’s part of life.”
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) November 12, 2013
Igor Larionov says he’s got a trip planned to Edmonton to discuss how Nail Yakupov is being used. Pretty unhappy.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) November 11, 2013
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.
THE BOTTOM LINE
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.
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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