One benefit of sitting around during an eight hour flight delay is it allows me to share the interview I had with Nail Yakupov’s agent, Igor Larionov.
I noted a few people suggesting Larionov was the bad guy and was giving Yakupov bad advice. Never forget the agent works for the player. An agent can be used as a shield (a wise move in some cases), or to speak on behalf of the player, but the player is always 100% aware of what his agent is saying publicly when it comes to trade demands.
Larionov shared his views on the Yakupov trade request and where they go from here.
Gregor: A trade was
asked for near the deadline, which is totally fine, but then why have it come
out in a Russian paper today, why not wait and tell people when the season is
Larionov: Well, you know what, it’s a good question. It’s a
little bit different culture of media and the player is based in North America
and the Russian reporter was making his trip to talk to a few players in North
America like [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Valeri] Nichushkin, and [Nail] Yakupov, and
He talked about the current situation, what’s happening with Nail and reviewing
the last four years, and then (brought) up the trade rumours, what happened
before the deadline. And now the player (Yakupov) thought that nobody was going
to be moved and [the reporter] asked him questions about what we know, what
happened, and asked him to review the last four years in Edmonton. And that’s
what came out in the article.
So it’s not all about demanding a trade. It’s not the same
as Jonathan Drouin from Tampa Bay was doing. We kept it quiet, we were trying
to see how we can help Nail to get it going or we can have an opportunity to
talk to other teams, and we can see if anybody would have a chance to make a
trade. So that’s what it’s all about.
It is important to note this is more about four years, than just this season. Yakupov feels it isn’t working, and would welcome a change. It is hard to disagree with him. Larionov was very complimentary of Chiarelli and I got the impression there was no ill-will between Yakupov’s camp and Chiarelli.
Gregor: You have a good
understanding of the game. What do you feel didn’t go right for Nail in Edmonton?
And when he goes to his new team what are some things he will need to do better
in order to have success?
Larionov: Well you’re always going to give advice to players
to be honest to the game of hockey. Honesty goes to his routine, his
preparation, his commitment, a lot of different things you advise and things
are going to fall into place.
But you go to Edmonton and the last four years with five coaches, you try to
tell Nail, ‘Be patient, the new coach is going to come in and new this and new
that,’ and it’s very confusing for a young player. When you have a new player
at that age, eighteen or nineteen or twenty, you want to have some veteran who
is going to guide the young player to the right direction. That’s what he was
lacking in those four years.
That was what I actually tried to [do] because I have that experience myself in
Vancouver when Pavel Bure came and he was actually struggling a little bit at
the beginning until Pat Quinn put him on my line and I took care of him and
then he taok off. Same thing with Datsyuk in Detroit when he came over in 2001.
So that’s what I was looking to tell Nail. Obviously the kid is very proud, so
he was trying to get treated fairly. He loves the city, he loves the fans, he
likes the team but he wants to be more productive and to be more utilized. He
was lacking that in Edmonton.
Larionov is accurate in saying the young forwards haven’t had much veteran leadership, but they did have Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth. Both of their careers were built on hard work. None of us can argue the young forwards might have benefited from some more veterans, but the veterans have told me the young guys didn’t always listen to what was said. It has to be a two-way street.
Gregor: Igor, you
were given permission to talk to some other teams and I was told there was some
clear interest and a deal was possibly close. How close was there to being an
actual deal from your understanding?
Larionov: Well, I had a talk with [Peter] Chiarelli before
the deadline so we talked about it and kept it private. There was no need to
make any noise, so I asked for that permission and he gave me that permission. I
talked to a couple of teams, and I’m not going to name them. It was good
interest from three different teams. At the end of the day Edmonton decides who
they are going to get in return. So there has got to be value for Nail and I
was just asking carefully so I could take a look and give them a chance, maybe
give them some fresh air to play. It’s not like I asked them to just give, for
the last fifteen games of the season, sixteen minutes of ice time to showcase
him in case you want to move him in the summer time.
A source told me the Ducks were interested and a trade involving Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot was being discussed, but Pouliot’s injury halted those discussions.
Gregor: How hard is it going to be, regardless of where he
goes and maybe even for any other player coming into the game who’s really been
training to be an offensive player to learn how to be a defensive player in the
toughest league in the world?
Larionov: In today’s game you have got to have three lines
that can do damage offensively. So there’s no doubt in my mind [that] Edmonton
has that opportunity. They have three really talented young players, [Connor]
McDavid, [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins and [Leon] Draisaitl. So that’s three centers
that you can build around. So three lines, you can have opportunity to play
fifteen, sixteen minutes and score twenty five, thirty goals. Some teams you
can watch the games, and like you said, it’s a lot of defence, a lot of
conservative hockey. It’s not very good for the game and the fans around the
league but there’s nothing I can do to change that.
Nail’s game is based on speed and also the physicality
because he likes to go to tough areas, and not to hit people, but I guess to be
present. But he’s got to be playing consistently and to be in the game, not to
be playing two minutes of the first period and maybe three minutes in the
second period and maybe like six minutes in the last period. It’s really hard
to showcase yourself when you’ve been sitting cold on the bench and watching
other players play.
Larionov mentioned showcasing yourself a few times in the interview, which leads me to believe they hope that can occur. You never say never, as far as Yakupov returning next season, but I’d be shocked if he isn’t traded. I think both sides are looking for a fresh start.
Gregor: How do you find
the balance, as an agent now or when you were a player, to know when the coach
thinks, ‘you have to earn your ice time,’ instead of ‘we have to give you your
Larionov: Well, it’s very complicated, I can tell you
that. It’s a big challenge. You’ve got to have, for example I can go back to
Detroit, you have to have some patience, you have to have some trust in the
players. You’ve got to give them a chance to make some mistakes, but you know
that through mistakes they are going to learn a lot of good things and they are
going to be very good down the road.
I understand Edmonton has too many young
guys and not so many veterans that have gone through success. It needs balance,
I would put it that way. When you don’t have role players who can be leading
the way and surround those young players, it’s going to take time. It’s taken a
while now for them to be moved to the right direction, but I hope that this
team is going to be good for many years. I’ve been saying that for quite a few
years and I hope that Nail is going to be a part of that success too.
Gregor: Do you expect
a trade to occur this summer?
Larionov: You know what, we’re not going to demand ‘trade me
or I’m not coming back’ — it’s not to that stage. We obviously are civilized
people and it’s about trying to find a solution. We are talking about a young
player’s career and obviously there are many interests for the Edmonton Oilers in what they want to do. So, if Nail goes back in the last four games and scores
five or six goals and he’d been happy there…
As I’ve said before in the previous interviews, he’s been
coming to Edmonton in the middle of July to train, to do some community work in
Edmonton with the fans, with the children who play hockey in the city. He likes
the city, he wants to be there, but I think he wants to be more utilized and he
wants to be successful with that team. There’s no way he is, like I said, there
is no turning point, ‘No I’m not going to go back.’ It’s kind of like for him
right now to be recognized and appreciated, that’s all it’s about.
I respect Larionov’s willingness to want to be positive, and Yak did score six goals in his final three games of his rookie season, so it is possible, but I don’t buy that four or five games can change Yakupov’s view on his time in Edmonton, nor do I think it would drastically alter how the Oilers feel.
Gregor: Moving forward, do you think it would be
better for Nail if they facilitated a trade and have him play elsewhere next
Larionov: Well it’s never bad. You take the time in the
summer and you think about your players that you want to move forward with for
the new season. So I guess maybe a fresh start and fresh air would be good for
Nail to go to a different team and that’s obviously an option. But once again
Nail Yakupov is an Oiler and he belongs to Edmonton and they have to make a
decision and hopefully in the summer time once everything calms down, a
decision will be made and [it will be] good for everybody.
Gregor: Did you
update Nail every couple of days about what was going on? In a situation like
this, how often do you have to talk to your player to let him know exactly
what’s going on?
Larionov: Well they like to hear that more. When I played
myself I didn’t have those kind of situations like that, only twice I had been
traded. Once it took me two weeks from San Jose to Detroit and then another one
was from Florida back to Detroit. The players nowadays, they would like to be
updated often, whereas when I played I would talk to my agent maybe three or
four times a year, that’s it.
So now sometimes I talk like three four times a day, every day, or every other
day. So a situation like this where a player is eager to play comfortably, to
play consistently and a certain amount of minutes he wants to play he wants to
know what’s going on. They ask has anyone shown some interest in me, and is
anything going to happen. It’s another world for the players now. It’s
Players want to be informed on everything nowadays. Agents communicate much more frequently than they did in the past. Yakupov was aware of the situation the entire time, as he should be considering it is his career.
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