It’s no secret that Nail Yakupov is struggling in his second NHL season, albeit the first full-season he’s been a part of. The Russian sniper who potted 17 goals last season and was arguably snubbed from the Calder Trophy for the league’s top rookie, is mired in a month long drought that has resulted in only one goal. Hardly the start anyone envisioned for Yakupov after generating plenty of excitement following his rookie campaign.
But is it time to give up on the youngster? Should the Edmonton Oilers seriously explore a trade and try and extract as much value in return for the former first overall pick? No, they should not give up on him and neither should the fans.
It’s been a tough start for the Oilers and the fans are raging with frustration. Changes are being demanded in the way of trade and Yakupov has been the most common name being mentioned. First it was the Toronto Maple Leafs then the New York Rangers that the Oilers were said to be looking at striking a deal with. Nothing happened and now head coach Dallas Eakins informed the media that he pulled Yakupov aside and told him he wasn’t going anywhere. Eakins used the analogy that Yakupov and the team were “joined at the hip” and reinforced the notion that it’s ok to struggle.
But how long to give him? He’s already been a healthy scratch twice this season and amid rumors that he would sit in Tampa Bay, the press box treatment could be in his future with healthy bodies returning to the Oilers lineup.
Even a stint in the AHL has been discussed on Twitter amongst the loyal Oiler fans. Sending him down to regain his confidence is not a bad idea, providing he wouldn’t have to clear waivers first.
Joe Thornton and Steven Stamkos have both been mentioned as now NHL superstars who started slow when they first broke into the league. Thornton, who was drafted by the Boston Bruins was a healthy scratch on multiple occasions during his rookie year and now he’s blossomed into one of the best play-makers in the league. Stamkos has one of the best shots in the league and could be considered to be the purest goal scorer in the NHL today.
Even Taylor Hall started slow, albeit it only lasted 7 or 8 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins struggled all of last year before succumbing to shoulder surgery but before the injury was known, fans weren’t calling for number 93 to be shipped out of Edmonton.
So don’t give up on Yakupov just yet. The 20-year old sophomore has only played in 63 career NHL games, which doesn’t add up to a complete season. Sure he’s struggling and when the Oilers are losing at the pace that they are, a player’s struggles are escalated to the forefront of the team’s concerns. Look at Devan Dubnyk at the start of the year when Edmonton was not only losing but having their so called number one netminder letting in weak goals. His struggles were magnified and he was ridiculed over them.
Eakins has said that Yakupov has to learn the defensive side of the game, which takes time. This is also the second coach in less than 82 games for the hard shooting Russian and new systems and game strategies will take time to adjust to. As a result, his scoring is down but it’s no reason to ship him out of town tomorrow.
Or do you the readers feel differently? Have you given up on Nail Yakupov to the point where you want him traded? Take part in our daily poll and let your voice be heard.