The Edmonton Oilers finally are almost at that point to where they can make things right. What I mean is that there is a sliver of light at the end of this sewer tunnel and that sliver of light looks like this:
What made me think of writing this post was the thought of the Oilers coaching and managerial staff going against their egos and letting Nail Yakupov playing on the wing of Connor McDavid this year. It’s not even that so much as how much of a fit Yak really is for McDavid.
I mentioned this on our podcast the other day but NHL hockey is very systems oriented. Players are told where to go, when to go there and how to get there. It works on both sides of the puck and that’s why we don’t see the free flow game that, say, the Russians used to play in the early days of hockey. Coaches figured out a way to nullify that kind of game through traps and the sort. So we’re stuck with hockey where the puck has a defined destination at all times. Whereas back in the day, where the puck went was where it went. It was dependent on the 4 other guys on the ice, not the one player with the puck.
Now speaking of Russians, Yakupov is the kind of player that doesn’t quite fit into systems isn’t he? I don’t think there’s a speed slower than rabbit on his ride mower. And so with that, he has a hard time finding linemates to click with, as we’ve seen with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Mark Letestu. He’s reliant upon highly skilled centres for his production.
Now he has found some success with Draisaitl but not to the same degree as he has with McDavid.
You cannot say with 100% certainty that anybody could put up points with McDavid because that is simply not true. Taylor Hall couldn’t because he’s a driver and a guy that needs the puck on his stick at all times, like McDavid but different in that he’ll never be in the same talent bucket as Connor.
But where I’m going with this is, Nail Yakupov can. And I believe the reason he can produce with Yakupov where others cannot is that 97 is simply on another level of thinking. His read and reaction skills are something out of this world and he can alter his intentions with the puck at a moment’s notice.
To simplify it a bit, Connor McDavid is that ex-pro on your beer league team that tells you to just “get open” and he’ll find you. Nail Yakupov is you, get open. Bingo Bango and Bob’s your uncle.
If they stopped telling Yak how to play his game and adapted around him, I believe we’d see him grow by leaps and bounds as an NHL player. Nail gets open, Connor gets him the puck. It’s so simple! I liken it a bit to Brett Hull and whatever playmaking centre he was playing with at the time be it Adam Oates, Craig Janney, Mike Modano, Steve Yzerman, or Wayne Gretzky…
I will say this, though, Yak’s clapper is kamikaze. He could use some time with the shooter tutor.
Nobody complained about Hull playing defense because he was putting the puck in the net so often right? Well, Connor is already the best two-way player on the Oilers and Yak shouldn’t be bearing the weight of the lines defense on his shoulders, should he? Maybe a game plan that elementary is ultimately too simple for the coaches in the NHL.
What about putting Yak out there with some of the team’s best defenders too? Maybe if HE had someone giving him the puck at the right spots and times, he’d produce more…
Now don’t tell me that Yakupov needs to “EARN” his spot with McDavid. That’s a crock of shit and the reason it is a crock is because Taylor Hall was very poor on the PP but he was out there on the first unit each and every time. Hall disappeared for games on end for the past two seasons after the Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention, but there he was taking his spot in the top 6 as if he was producing at a Patrick Kane-like pace.
You put the best players in the best position for the TEAM to succeed, unless that player is named Yakupov, right? If the coach or some fans dislike the way Yak practices but he’s producing during the games, tough titty.
It’s time for the Oilers to do good by Yakupov because he’s taken a lot of crap whilst working his ass off. Sure, there’s the trade demands but how much of that has been driven by his agent, Igor Larionov? Doesn’t he have a right to be pissed off though? The other no.1 picks were getting all the cherry minutes w/o having to “earn it” and he’s stuck on a line with Mark Letestu because they feel his 200ft game needs work?…
Funny, for all the negative things I hear about Yak on Twitter, he’s never been reprimanded on national television in the manner Taylor Hall was.
In the end, this brings us back to the Oilers making things right. They need to make it right and go against that feeling in their stomachs and leave Yak on McDavid’s line for the year, even when he struggles. They need to make it right and go out and sign veteran NHLers who’ve been to the Cup finals and lost or won, so that the younger players on the team have someone to learn from. They need to make it right and keep prospects in the minors for a predetermined period of time in which they can become acclimated to the professional game and iron out those bad habits learnt in junior or college.
As Oilers observer Sunil Agnihotri said on Twitter,
And at the cost of nothing, the team has created competition at a position. When was the last time they did that? https://t.co/dNJLtIpq7h
— Sunil Agnihotri (@sunilagni) September 10, 2016
I feel like this post was a bit “all over the place”. So I appreciate it if you made it this far!
Make it right Chiarelli. Make it right McLellan.
How could the Oilers make it right for you? Let us know in the comments below!