As you know, forward Nail Yakupov is the only young player on the Edmonton Oilers that’s a defensive liability, and thus coach Dallas Eakins has decided to make him a healthy scratch (again) for their game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
Eakins and Yak had a long discussion prior to practice on Monday, “the longest I’ve had with any player” according to the coach. He felt it was a positive conversation, and that “we have a definite plan moving forward,” which apparently involves Yakupov sitting and watching Oilers games in expensive suits.
No, but seriously, what’s the plan? From the Edmonton Journal:
“I do see him trying. He’s not turning over puck, nearly as much as he did earlier in the season. He’s suddenly in the shot lane in our zone. He’s trying to do the right thing along the walls but young guys need lots of work there,” he said. “But I want to go to the other side of the game with Nail. I need him to score and the deal we have in place if he holds up his end of the bargain, I will put him with people as I’m doing with Roman Horak. I will do my best to put him in positions to succeed but he has to hold up his end of the deal and he has to earn it along the way.”
Yakupov has been a fourth-liner for the last four games, skating 9:53, 6:29, 6:14 and then 8:38 for the Oilers. Against Calgary and Winnipeg, he skated less than 10 shifts.
Eakins understands the politics and drama inherent in scratching last year’s leading goal scorer for Edmonton. From the Edmonton Sun:
“There are a lot of things going on, I understand, I get it around town, (people say) I have to play Yakupov with better players and I have to get him on the power play,” Eakins said. “Everyone seems to forget that we have other players, especially on that right side.
“Jordan Eberle is a very good player, David Perron is a very good player, Ales Hemsky is a very good player. Those are the guys that he’s in against and that’s hard for a 20 year old, it’s extremely hard. I think we’re all very quick to forget the competition he’s in against.”
Wait, so Yakupov is a redundant player for the Oilers? Well there’s something that’s only be said since the day he was drafted.
Yak has six goals in 39 games for the Oilers, skating to a minus-25.
That’s one more goal than Sam Gagner has scored this season. Who is a minus-15. Who has 13 points in 28 games and one in his last six games but has skated over 18 minutes in the Oilers’ last three games.
Say, didja know Gagner has played for the Oilers for seven years and is from London, Ontario, while Nail Yakupov hasn’t and isn’t? Just an FYI …