Monday, March 28, 2016

Yak smak or Nail in the coffin?

 #Oilers #OilersNation

The word got out through Russian media that the 2012 #1 draft pick, Nail Yakupov, wants a trade out of Edmonton.  It's no surprise as he whined about it a couple years ago that he wants to play.  What NHL player wouldn't want to play?

Oilers forward nail yakupov

I'm not going to look at his goals per season under different coaches.  Let's look at how well he plays with and without players.

Go over to and look at his WOWY and Spider graphs over the past four seasons.

One thing I noticed was in looking at the Overviews each season and the common trend in the 2nd and 3rd graphs that the more ice time he got, the better he eventually got defensively.

If his ice time was down, he tried to do more offensively and thus took more risks, was out of position, and more shots and goals against. 

This attitude landed him with the worst plus-minus in the league one season.

The other thing I noticed was in the WOWY (with or without you stat) that Yakupov he plays well with highly-skilled players, but is unable to lift players up that are less-skilled than he is.

Essentially, he doesn't make the players around him better, but he will compliment a skilled player quite well. 

Players' coaches Ralph Krueger and Todd Nelson knew this and played him on the second line accordingly with guys like Gagner, Perron, Hemsky, and even Derek Roy, and Yak played to his potential because of it, and fans loved him for it.  Who can forget that winning goal against the Kings and his Super Celly!

As much as Dallas Eakins was a supposed defense-first coach, because Yak wasn't touted as a two-way player, he got less ice time and fell out of favour, even being benched a couple times.  This is when the Russian winger got annoyed and announced it publicly.   Well that certainly won't put you in favour.

Enter McDavid.  I thought Eberle was going to be paired with McDavid.
But then Eberle got injured before the season started.
Then Yakupov's dream came true and he gets paired with McDavid.
Then everyone was seeing that this was going to be the pair that carried the team forward.
Then McDavid got injured.
Then Yak got a freak injury from a linesman
Then Hall and Draisaitl became the new top pair.
Then Eberle came back.
Then McDavid came back got paired with Eberle and Yak got bumped to the 3rd line.
Then some magic happened.
Then McDavid's and Eberle's linemate Pouliot got injured.
Then Yak sometimes saw ice time with that pair.  But not much happened.
Then Yak got bumped from the power play entirely.

It was like watching your ex make out with your competition.

What is clear is that McDavid made a SIGNIFICANT impact on Yakupov's play.  So much so that Yakupov started playing a better two-way game even without McDavid.  It was like he was learning on the fly from McDavid's example or something.  Pouliot was a little better without Yakupov, though.

That said, my point isn't really that Yakupov got better, it's that even a young McDavid can take a bad player and make him better.

And I think now, Yakupov is seeing that the Oilers forward lines will have a grinder, a two-way centreman, and a skilled winger, and as long as Eberle is in the lineup, Yakupov will play second-fiddle right winger on the third line.

But here's where I think Yak made a huge mistake.  Massive rumours are flying around that Eberle will be traded for a top-d man in the off-season.  What a prime opportunity for Yak to slot in to McDavid's right side at a much cheaper price.

The worst part of all this is how the Oilers squandered a #1 draft pick and will either get in return at best a 2nd round draft pick, or a bottom six winger.

That said, as much as Yak wants a trade, it's not up to him.  Like Jonathan Drouin in Tampa Bay, Oilers management will hopefully pull the trigger when the deal is right.

Even then, Yak boasted that 8 teams were interested, including Carolina and New Jersey, but "something went wrong".

My guess on that, and many others have guessed already, is that the deals weren't right and Chiarelli laughed at the return offers.

Teams that have a good two-way 2nd line centreman looking for a right half-wall powerplay sniper, should look to Yakupov.

So if Eberle gets traded, I think Chiarelli says to Yak, "Ok, Nail, you're going to slot back in with McDavid."

Otherwise, look for Yakupov to be traded in a package deal for a mid-right defensemen with a quality defensive prospect like Oesterle, or for a bottom six forward or centreman along with a Letestu, Korpikoski or Hendricks.

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