I remember the day Nail Yakupov was drafted like it was yesterday. After many months of zero information being available, suddenly it was all out there. Before the draft, I heard:
- The Oilers were taking Ryan Murray for sure.
- The Oilers wanted to take Griffin Reinhart, but weren’t sure how far they could trade down.
- CBJ didn’t want to trade at all, they were happy at No. 2.
- The owner was pushing for Nail Yakupov.
- They were definitely taking Mitch Moroz in the second round.
- Stu McGregor told Jason Gregor “there has been the consensus amongst the public of Yakupov being the player, but I think some of the players from behind have closed that gap considerably, and that’s why it has been more interesting.” Source
In the end, I wrote three different No. 1 overall posts, one I published day of, and the others later:
- Nail Yakupov: ”That’s a wonderful scouting report, I’m going to miss these. There’s no skating issues, no “wide body style slows him down” or “had mono” or “born with a tail” or some of the other maladies we’ve seen in the past with Oiler picks. Another finisher, after a long stretch of few or none. This kid shoots bullets. He can pass and take a pass and has some spine.”
- Ryan Murray: ”Those who suggest Edmonton made a mistake today have an extremely strong case. If the Oilers felt Murray was the man, dealing down was the move. This is the kind of asset management that losing teams do over and over again. Not recognizing the situation tells us the Oilers are not strong in the front office. This lands squarely on Steve Tambellini. Inertia.”
- Griffin Reinhart: ”Reinhart is not the type of player who ordinarily covers the bet for a lottery selection. A player like Luke Schenn had many of the same tools as Reinhart, and several years later a re-draft would no doubt send Schenn down the list.”
Nail Yakupov: 'I asked a trade and #Oilers gave a permission to speak to other teams, about 8 of them were interested, but smth went wrong'
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) March 27, 2016
Suspect the return was not substantial enough, but also believe we will see the trade go through over the summer—possibly before the draft. For the record, I still think drafting Nail Yakupov was the right call. What went wrong? Sometimes in life, the truth is hard to come by, but, no matter the exact sequence of events, somewhere in there the die was cast. It’s nobody’s fault, but: That my friends is not a good line, any time, when it comes to your life story. If I could, I would tell Nail he is going to be fine, there’s a place for him where he belongs. In a quiet moment, I might even imply he is the lucky one, and you could absolutely make that case this morning. I think they drafted him, but never embraced him. One day, someday, one of us might have a chance to share a coffee with Nail and Ralph, and talk about what might have been. Far from skype, and the fog, a brand new day.
One of the main problems for Yak is shown here. The left side is the skill group, and mercy Nail should be there. Now, he IS there if Connor McDavid is his center (2.38/60 5×5, Corsi over 50 percent), and is not with Mark Letestu (0.28/60 5×5, Corsi of 43 percent). I don’t think he will be remembered well as an Oiler, but he isn’t Greg Joly or Patrik Stefan either. He arrived in a time of braintrust addlement and was not well equipped for the job of overcoming it. That’s no sin for a young man.
Next up? I think we will have a new answer this summer, but it is a good bet there will be no questions this fall that feature the young Russian as the answer. After all those years of ignoring Russia, this is the payoff? We hoped for the best, but never thought it would be this bad.
LOST TOGETHER, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1
- Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
- Oilers in January 2016: 4-5-2
- Oilers in February 2015: 5-6-1
- Oilers in February 2016: 4-8-2
- Oilers in March 2015: 5-6-3
- Oilers in March 2016: 7-7-0
- Oilers after 78 in 2014-15: 23-42-13, 59 points (-78 GD)
- Oilers after 78 in 2015-16: 30-41-7, 67 points (-39 GD)
Oilers lost G79 to the Flames 4-0, as the hits kept on coming. If the Oilers can win tonight, you would have to think 70 points is within reach, I think that is the final goalpost available to show progress (unless they can gets the GD below -30).
OILERS DEFENSE, 2015-16
The one area of the roster Edmonton has depth is LH defense. That depth is compromised currently, but if Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson are healthy, could Chiarelli cash some of that depth to address RH side? If you ran Klefbom, Sekera and Davidson LH side, and kept Fayne for RH side, could you acquire two righties with a combination of Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle and David Musil get you anywhere? Don’t know, but Darnell Nurse was apparently part of the ask for Dougie Hamilton last summer, so he should have substantial value. I don’t think Edmonton trades Nurse, he fits their template too well. What about Klefbom or Davidson? One imagines their injuries have either reduced their value or delayed potential deals until health is proven.
Lots of experience, and if you have two of Nurse, Reinhart and Oesterle on the farm then the callups will have some chance of succeeding. I am not a big fan of trading players before five years after the draft, those years need to burn off before you know what you have. We are year three of Nurse, don’t think the Oilers will deal him. But if he is the ask in a Hamonic deal? Interesting idea.
WHAT COULD EDMONTON GET FOR YAKUPOV?
Tough question. Nail can be a successful winger, but a team acquiring him has to assess if he is above what we might call replacement level. By that I mean the following: Does Nail Yakupov, as a feature player in your lineup, deliver a stronger goal differential than a replacement-level player like Lee Stempniak? Because Stempniak is unlikely to cost more, and might cost less—plus he has shown an ability to serve as a solid plug-and-play option.
NHL managers and coaches are always going to believe they can unlock a player, and I do suspect Yakupov could flourish in some NHL cities. Anaheim has been mentioned as a possible destination, and I can see him doing well on that team. New Jersey is also a possible destination, his way is less clear on that team—they have a lot of hard workers but seem shy on skill.
Nail Yakupov could stay here next year, play on the McDavid line and end up on the left-hand column above—I believe that to be true. More than that, I believe Todd McLellan entered into the year with the intention of unlocking Nail, and Justin, and others. It did not happen. Remember that media avail where McLellan talked about these kids hearing the same message from different coaches? And remember when he said maybe the players should ask themselves if it was more about them?
We are here. The one lingering question I have, is this: What if it isn’t about the player at all? What if these gifted but flawed men simply needed a more sound organization behind them? I believe that is a question worth asking today.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show as we hit the airwaves for the first time since Thursday. Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside, ESPN. McDavid Calder? Doughty Norris? Holtby Vezina? Plus the Canucks driving hard to the lottery hoop.
- Corey Graham, TSN1260. The Oil Kings shocked the Brandon Wheat Kings and now are (incredibly) in control of their first round series. How did this happen?
- Sunil Agnihotri, Copper & Blue plus The SuperFan. The Yakupov issue, plus trading one of those lefty blue for righty help.
10-1260 on text machine, @Lowetide on twitter. I will also be on the roundtable at nine. Talk soon!