THE YAKUPOV PANIC

The tournament of small sample sizes has created panic in the streets! Nail Yakupov’s uneven play and the Russian Bear’s sleepy performance has many Oiler fans wondering about their Russian sniper.

In 5 WJ games this year, Yakupov is 1-4-5. Previous to his arriving in Ufa, Yakupov played in the KHL which is generally regarded as one of the best leagues in the world. In that league, Yakupov’s boxcars (22, 10-8-18)  suggest a very productive rookie season.

So why the panic? I suspect it has to do with the very average performance of the Russian team and Yakupov’s inability to impact the game in a major way. The big stars of this tournament have turned out to be RNH, Jacob Trouba and goaltending.

The World Juniors are made for these moments–young impact players stepping up and delivering. For a fanbase that witnessed the magic of Jordan Eberle at the WJs, young Yakupov looks decidedly mediocre.

All I can offer you is this: its 5 games in a season, it is the ultimate tournament of small sample sizes. It doesn’t–really it doesn’t–mean anything. Yakupov’s performance in this tournament has not been what we might have expected, but it looks to me as though he is trying too hard, doesn’t have a lot of chem with his linemates and is playing for an addled coach.

He’s a kid. 18. If this were a Canadian kid, I do believe there would be more empathy. And if you’re upset by WJ performance, I encourage you to have a listen to Steve Wonder and his song about things we don’t understand.

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54 Responses to "THE YAKUPOV PANIC"

  1. regwald says:

    Yak with an assist today, but they are down 3-2 with 7:29 remaining in the third. We will have to see what the Russian full court press can do against the trapping of the Swiss.

  2. Lucinius says:

    Russians need to turn this game around. If the Swiss hold on for the win it’ll be the first game I picked the wrong winner!

    Russians may need to put Grigorenko together with Yakupov. They need to do something. Outside of finding a new coach, of course.

  3. P-Ow says:

    FWiW, he’s 19.

    Part of the panic has to be that TSN has just consistently hammered Yakupov at every turn this tournament. Can’t be helping public perception.

  4. Lucinius says:

    Man…

    Well, I don’t think either team will be able to beat the Swedes; even as depleted as their D-corps are this year. Russians just don’t play enough of a team game and the Swiss can’t match the team-play and cautious style of the Swedes as well as they have the helter-skelter chaos of the Russian system.

  5. Lucinius says:

    Well, Russia won. Swiss gave them all they could handle. Refs were horrible, but what else is new in hockey?

  6. sliderule says:

    I noticed in the super series that Yak turns away from the play and doesn’t engage.He continues to do this at WJC .Strange.This could be a product of the Russian system of running one four traps.

    Whatever the oil coaches will go nuts if he diesnt adapt and engage for the puck.

  7. velo says:

    Not a lot has been made of Yak’s off ice issues this year (no not the bad kind, the logistical kind). He was here for development camp, the Sarnia episode, played in the KHL, banned from the KHL, played in the KHL, did the Jr. Tour, maybe back to KHL team and now World Jr’s. Talk about a lot of change. I don’t know of any other play this year who has travelled so much, had so much media attention and played with such a wide range of teammates as Yak has. Nuge’s season has been disrupted…but nowhere near the extent to which Yak’s has. Through all of it, Yak’s been pretty damn good. I am more impressed with him after going through this year, such that it is, than I was with him at the time of the draft.

  8. Ducey says:

    Yeah, there are lots of guys in the TSN Top 40 Canadian World Junior players that had great tournaments, only to do nothing in the NHL. The flip side applies too.

    It also seems that Yakupov is trying too hard and the Russians are not playing as a team. I saw Nail make a mad dash in the 3rd, only to run into a box of 4 Swiss players. There was no plan, no support.

    The is no denying he has great talent. Ralph will sort him out.

    Watching Nuge and Hemmer making saucer passes to Nail’s quick release will calm everyone down quickly.

  9. HiddenDarts says:

    velo:
    Not a lot has been made of Yak’s off ice issues this year (no not the bad kind, the logistical kind).He was here for development camp, the Sarnia episode, played in the KHL, banned from the KHL, played in the KHL, did the Jr. Tour, maybe back to KHL team and now World Jr’s.Talk about a lot of change.I don’t know of any other play this year who has travelled so much, had so much media attention and played with such a wide range of teammates as Yak has.Nuge’s season has been disrupted…but nowhere near the extent to which Yak’s has.Through all of it, Yak’s been pretty damn good.I am more impressed with him after going through this year, such that it is, than I was with him at the time of the draft.

    I completely agree with this. There probably isn’t another pro in the world that has done this much traveling while being under this much spotlight.

    I also agree with the small sample sizes, and the fact that it’s pretty obvious by now that even my grandmother would offer up some negative point about the Russian coaching.

    It’s important to remember the youth of this player, and the expectations. IF an NHL season takes place, though, I expect he’ll find a “Rookie Taylor Hall”-like groove.

    BTW: Thanks Lowetide for the Hockeystreams mention. Really great site. I’m considering dropping my NHL LIVE in favor of it! I think the fact that Kings-Oilers games will no longer be blacked out (I’m in San Diego) is worth the price of admission alone!

  10. Truth says:

    Yakupov is clearly trying to do too much. When he gets the puck he wants to score or create a scoring chance every single time, and when he doesn’t have the puck he tries to get to full speed and look for a feed. Unfortunately, he’s either not doing a good job of getting open/available for a pass, or his teammates aren’t the same quality he is used to in order to give him the puck. I think he has to learn to slow the game down a bit, make the right play from time to time and let the play develop. There will always be times to use the speed game, but it doesn’t have to be every single play.

    It’s no surprise that his most recent play in the KHL has appeared to slow. At the beginning he was not looked at as someone to single out defensively. His hot start now warrants top defensive pairings and tighter defensive coverage.

    What I can’t understand is why the Russian WJC coach will not put Yakupov and Grigorenko on the ice at the same time. Not even on the PP or in overtime 4 on 4. Especially considering one is a C and one is a W.

    Has anyone heard a reason for this? To me the first PP would be Yakupov, Grigorenko, and the three guys closest to the door on the bench.

  11. godot10 says:

    Yakupov is an extremely high-strung thoroughbred (like Taylor Hall) whose rough edges (unlike Hall) have not been polished.

    Yakupov is trying too hard. In a good way, he takes a Horcovian dive to block a shot late in the game against the American. In a bad way, he is not playing “with” his linemates enough and trying to do too much himself.

    In a reversal of roles, the Canadian youth hockey system is now “communistic” and the Russian system is “libertarian”…i.e. Canadian are ingrained with communitarian/collective team values from a young age. The collective has gone missing from Russian hockey. At critical moments, the players play individualistically, instead of as an organism. The Russian hockey system is still trying to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Krueger just has to polish the rough diamond. I fret NOT.

  12. jfry says:

    I think velo nailed it. In the last 8 months yak has flown half way across the world at least 10 times, put up with innumerable interviews and been dragged across the Great Plains having been the focus of tag teams and petty slashes.

    I’m tired just thinking about it. He had a month window where he could just focus on playing and in that month he was one of the best players in the world.

    Also, this Russian team is a shadow of last years team. They graduated a lot of talent. Kuznetsov was the most dominant possession player I’d ever seen in a Wjc, last year. He is radically missed.

    Lets trade him!! ;)

  13. Lucinius says:

    There has been no reason given for why Grigorenko and Yakupov are unable to take the ice together, Truth.

    Other than the one touted by many; the coach is bad.

    To be fair, he might not want to mess up the one line of his that’s been consistently dangerous, but why he wouldn’t put Yakupov and Grigorenko together in overtime or on a powerplay is perplexing; especially in this game where so much was riding on it.

  14. Woodguy says:

    Ducey:
    Yeah, there are lots of guys in the TSN Top 40 Canadian World Junior players that had great tournaments, only to do nothing in the NHL.The flip side applies too.

    It also seems that Yakupov is trying too hardand the Russians are not playing as a team.I saw Nail make a mad dash in the 3rd, only to run into a box of 4 Swiss players.There was no plan, no support.

    The is no denying he has great talent.Ralph will sort him out.

    Watching Nuge and Hemmer making saucer passes to Nail’s quick release will calm everyone down quickly.

    That’s pretty much my take as well.

  15. Bar_Qu says:

    We must panic now. Boris what-his-name slammed Nail. The Russians know he isn’t good ergo he is done.

    Mind you, I might be overstating things a little. The media certainly wouldn’t.

  16. jake70 says:

    Godot mentioned above about him being a high-strung thoroughbred. Couldn’t agree more. Unless the mental side of things gets to him, he will take over games for the Oilers down the road….too much talent there. I get giddy thinking of him and Hall playing full stride together, either on the same line or not.

  17. Marc says:

    I wish there was a way to put money on Yakupov being in the thick of the rookie scoring race right off the bat, leading to Damien Cox et al writing about him defying expectations and actually being pretty good.

    The Oilers really are the best possible place he could have landed. He won’t have to be the focus of the offence and probably won’t be facing top competition. He’ll either be playing with Hemsky or RNH, who’ll be able to get him the puck in a way that none of his Russian teammates seem able to do. And if he gets off to slow start it probably won’t worry the fans too much – they’ll either be celebrating or worrying about the starts of Hall, Eberle, RNH and Schultz before they even start thinking about Yakupov.

    Columbus on the other hand, couldn’t be a worse place for him to have gone – not a lot of offensive talent, pressure to succeed right off the bat and a fan base that has been burned by high Russian draft picks. He’s probably thanking his lucky stars the the lottery balls fell as they did.

  18. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    Only 1 ppg. Oh why oh why didn’t we have the sense to start dubnyk more. We could have drafted lower and gotten grigorenko or trouba?

    Yeah. Was kind of expecting a tournament of small sample size post

  19. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    Bar_Qu,

    So if RNH was only 1 ppg and Canada falls short of gold

    Q. “Messier says it’s too early to think of comparing RNH to Wayne, Gretzky even though he’s a very useful player for the team. What do you think?”

    A. “RNH’s as far removed from Gretzky as I am from the moon. There’s only one Gretzky. That’s how it’s going to stay. Our junior team’s captain has been so far RNH, that’s all.”

  20. Woodguy says:

    Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal tweet:

    Joanne Ireland ‏@jirelandEJ

    Swiss G Melvin Nyffeler comes out in gear to talk about gut wrenching s/o loss to Russia. Russian capt Nail Yakupov? Nyet. #wjc2013 #oilers

    Everyone has been all over Nail for not talking to the media.

  21. Woodguy says:

    And Terry Jones is on it too:

    Terry Jones ‏@sunterryjones

    So Nail Yakupov doesn’t do post-game interviews in Ufa after another quiet game. Kid making people wonder on and off the ice.
    Expand

    Great, they’re running him out of town before he’s even played a game for EDM.

  22. Kris11 says:

    IMO, he is not tired.

    Note that Grigorenko isn’t doing much better in the tournament, despite being a near goal per game player in the Q., outplaying a lot of the playersin the tournament regularly. Team Russia has a problem, but the evidence outside of the tournament shows Grigorenko and Yakupov are playing well and project to be excellent to elite NHL’ers.

    I am worried that Yak has some awful habits with positional play (and Russia’s positional play is Kafkaesque this tournament), but that cn be solved.

  23. Zipdot says:

    Yakupov is only playing badly to set himself up for those “The Yak is Back!” tweets that you know are coming.

  24. Showerhead says:

    I’m of two minds when it comes to concern over interview requests. On one hand, it’s hilarious to me that sports fans / journalists feel like they have the right to decide which personality traits are OK for a hockey player to have. On the other hand… Wait there is no other hand. People are crazy.

    As for his performance, he has not been dominant and I can see how fans are disappointed. That said, I’m fully aboard the “relax, it’s 5games” bandwagon. He’ll be just fine, folks.

  25. raventalon40 says:

    Showerhead:
    On one hand, it’s hilarious to me that sports fans / journalists feel like they have the right to decide which personality traits are OK for a hockey player to have. On the other hand… Wait there is no other hand. People are crazy.

    Hahaha! This is exactly how I feel when I read one of John MacKinnon’s articles. He panders, oh so hard.

  26. hungoverman says:

    Happy New Year LT. Also, Teryy Jones tweets about Nail make me want to throw my phone through his skull. I personally cannot stand most of what Terry Jones writes or tweets about.
    Nail will be fine and i hope he comes out in the next game and scores the gold meadal winning goal to shut people up. Even if it is against RNH and Canada. Then maybe Terry can questions Ryan about his work ethics, etc.
    Sorry rant over. I have not had a beer yet today and it is making me very edgy.

  27. hungoverman says:

    hungoverman: Happy New Year LT. Also, Terry Jones tweets about Nail make me want to throw my phone through his skull. I personally cannot stand most of what Terry Jones writes or tweets about.Nail will be fine and i hope he comes out in the next game and scores the gold meadal winning goal to shut people up. Even if it is against RNH and Canada. Then maybe Terry can questions Ryan about his work ethics, etc.Sorry rant over. I have not had a beer yet today and it is making me very edgy.

  28. Truth says:

    After refreshing my twitter feed I am pretty confident that Yakupov is not only a draft bust, but a horrible leader, individual, representative of his country, and probably some sort of criminal/rapist. 1 PPG average in a tournament of the best junior aged competition in the world AND not talking to the media after advancing to the semi-finals. How did he even make the team?

  29. Ducey says:

    Woodguy: And Terry Jones is on it too:Terry Jones ‏@sunterryjonesSo Nail Yakupov doesn’t do post-game interviews in Ufa after another quiet game. Kid making people wonder on and off the ice.

    Terry Jones and Joanne Ireland have been making me wonder for years.

  30. striatic says:

    i am not worried in the slightest about Yakupov.

    he’s 1 ppg and he is captain of his team and his team is winning.

    that the media is trying to turn this into a disastrous performance would be mystifying if it wasn’t so obvious they’re just desperately trying to find something to talk about.

  31. copperblueandwhite says:

    He’ll probably kill Team Canada if both teams get to the final! Just when we think the Russians are dead they up and bite our ass…beware!

  32. gogliano says:

    Question: How many 2011 draft picks wouldn’t be playing in this tournament if the NHL was in full swing?

    RNH is coming into this tourney with a full year of NHL experience. That has to count for something. I don’t think Yakupov is blowing things away but fans are almost always guilty of unrealistic expectations. He isn’t playing is best but is still putting up points and getting shots against a stiffer than usual field. If a couple more of his fourteen shots go in instead of wide no one is having this conversation.

    But the media needs something to talk about.

  33. FrankenOil says:

    Sometimes reading the MSM tweets, the only thing that comes to mind is some “Yak” -ety Sax

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnHmskwqCCQ

  34. Radman says:

    Ducey: Yeah, there are lots of guys in the TSN Top 40 Canadian World Junior players that had great tournaments, only to do nothing in the NHL. The flip side applies too.It also seems that Yakupov is trying too hard and the Russians are not playing as a team. I saw Nail make a mad dash in the 3rd, only to run into a box of 4 Swiss players. There was no plan, no support.The is no denying he has great talent. Ralph will sort him out.Watching Nuge and Hemmer making saucer passes to Nail’s quick release will calm everyone down quickly.

    Agree.

    Sheesh. First the media makes a big deal about his dirty Canadians quote, then they critique him for not saying anything. Lots of pressure on the kid, especially in front of the home fans.

    Not worried (yet)

  35. remlap says:

    Happy New Year to everyone, especially Lowetide. And DSF. Where is that guy?

    I’ve noticed that since CBA talks are picking up (in addition to World Juniors I suppose), that the comment feed is starting to gain steam here. This place was dead for a few months.

  36. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    A kid who says whatever he thinks. Media from 2 countries ready to pounce on every word. Or how quicky he leaves the ice. Or his body languages. What could possibly go wrong?

  37. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    Hmmm. Last PA vote expires today and Fehr shifts the ground to pensions. No coicidence there. He’s filing tonight.

  38. dessert1111 says:

    I wish more players would refuse media, 90% of what they say is a waste of breath because I’ve heard it about 1000 times before. By not talking Yakupov is already saying something more interesting than the vast majority of players who do a media scrum, and journalists are thankful for that because it gives them something to tell us to worry about.

  39. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    “…I’ve noticed that since CBA talks are picking up (in addition to World Juniors I suppose), that the comment feed is starting to gain steam here…”

    remlap,

    Nothing quite like that combo:

    @TSNDaveHodge Thought I’d mind the early WJHC starts, but it has been great to get the games over with so they don’t interfere with the lockout updates

  40. Ducey says:

    Ebs is the AHL player of the month for December
    http://theahl.com/eberle-repeats-as-ccm-ahl-player-of-the-month-p181104

    OKC has swept the award this year. Shultz Jr was Mr October, with Eberle winning in Nov and now Dec.

  41. LMHF#1 says:

    Is there any way to run the media types who cry every time a player won’t answer their cliche non-questions out of town? Could we leave them in Ufa, for instance?

  42. hunter1909 says:

    Нинтендо⁶⁴:
    A kid who says whatever he thinks. Media from 2 countries ready to pounce on every word. Or how quicky he leaves the ice. Or his body languages. What could possibly go wrong?

    I’m wholeheartedly ready to endorse the Katz Group’s media savvy with regards to anything ever to do with Yakupov getting out of control.

    The thing is, they understand public relations.

  43. Ducey says:

    LMHF#1: Is there any way to run the media types who cry every time a player won’t answer their cliche non-questions out of town? Could we leave them in Ufa, for instance?

    You could shut down all the buffets in Edmonton. That would deter Terry Jones from coming back…

  44. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    hunter1909,

    Yeh. Until the tournament is over Nail should follow the Katz/Larianov mantra:

    Why should I talk to Edmonton media?

  45. hunter1909 says:

    BTW, somehow managed to stumble on a highlight reel of the 2010 World Juniors, starring Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Then my mind fast forwarded to RNH+Yakupov along with the AHL rookie defenceman scoring leader.

    Yikes.

    Khabibulin’s contract year magic? Oilers rolling 2 lines each with a pair of HOF prospects?

    I’d love to know the Bookie odds of them with a 23-5-2 record to start a 48 game season.

    Marc Pouliot brought back on Lowetide’s constant urging at the trade deadline, then immediately gets injured after somehow as yet to be determined MAP steals a roster place off a sensitive younger prospect and destroys another career as a result .

  46. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    LMHF#1,

    Bad enough with Eagleson. Would hate to see Terry Jones being rescued by some player who would later regret it.

  47. stevezie says:

    hunter1909,

    Do the bookies have access to our defensive roster?

  48. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    not panicking but I thought I’d mention the other game today (US-Czech)… and note that Musil was brutal, 3 bad penalties, got beat in the neutral zone numerous times, had trouble holding the blue line on the forecheck and just looked slow, outmatched and frustrated.

    one game is an incredibly small sample size… but it wasn’t good.

  49. stevezie says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    Haven’t loved him in the Oil King games I’ve seen either, as long as we’re complaining. (I’ve only seen four games, as long as we’re talking sample size. Old man Corbett has been my D of choice.)

  50. loosemoose says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    From the WHL games I have seen, I believe we are going to kick ourselves for not taking Ty Rattie……

    Musil is about as quick as Alex Plante, from what I remember. I know dmen take a generation or so to develop, so he could work out, but I was rooting for the Winterhawk in the second round, so I remain bias to this day…..

  51. jfry says:

    Agreed on rattie

  52. velo says:

    dessert1111,

    Exactly. I PVR almost everything to skip interviews and Ray Ferraro. I sometimes have to turn the volume off during the game too…soooo much hot air…mind numbing. I love hockey the best…although the commentary/interviews are the worst.

  53. Captain Happy says:

    hunter1909:
    BTW, somehow managed to stumble on a highlight reel of the 2010 World Juniors, starring Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Then my mind fast forwarded to RNH+Yakupov along with the AHL rookie defenceman scoring leader.

    Yikes.

    Khabibulin’s contract year magic? Oilers rolling 2 lines each with a pair of HOF prospects?

    I’d love to know the Bookie odds of them with a 23-5-2 record to start a 48 game season.

    Marc Pouliot brought back on Lowetide’s constant urging at the trade deadline, then immediately gets injured after somehow as yet to be determined MAP steals a roster place off a sensitive younger prospect and destroys another career as a result .

    Come back to earth Hunter.

    Rumour has it that the abbreviated NHL schedule will feature 7 (yes SEVEN) games against each of the 4 teams in every teams’ division.

    This means the Oilers will play the Canucks, Wild, Flames and Avalanche 7 times.

    The schedule will also feature one home and one away game against the remainder of conference opponents.

  54. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    loosemoose:
    Romulus Apotheosis,

    From the WHL games I have seen, I believe we are going to kick ourselves for not taking Ty Rattie……

    Musil is about as quick as Alex Plante, from what I remember. I know dmen take a generation or so to develop, so he could work out, but I was rooting for the Winterhawk in the second round, so I remain bias to this day…..

    Well, this is the first I’ve seen of him since last WJs. And…. it’s unimpressive for a 19 year old 31st overall… but I’m happy to let him prove me and my tiny sample size wrong!

    Rattie looked great in the first couple of games, that line seemed a bit off in the russia game. maybe the line change threw them.

    dessert1111,

    velo,

    I hear you on the useless interviews… and Ferraro has a bad case of anti-euro… but he is a huge improvement over PM. He is far more alert to the actual goings on of the game and better at explaining things. still far from perfect. Gord is a true gem though IMO.

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