Is Nail Yakupov a 'Prima Dona'? Is Nail Yakupov selfish and not a team player? Did we make a mistake drafting Nail rather then Ryan Murray or Galchenyuk? The questions are a plenty when it comes to Nail Yakupov.
Everyone is entitled to their hockey opinion and in the case of Yakupov, most opinion's right now are showing a down arrow. Sure, some MSM and bloggers and even some fans are giving the benefit of the doubt saying they are not going to read too much into it.
I for one, am a person who will live or die with my assessments be it good or bad. I said from the moment the 2011 Nugent-Hopkins Draft was completed, that Yakupov was the greatest talent available and was head a shoulders above all the other eligible draftees. When draft time came and people of Edmonton were in a panic about the potential decision to maybe take Ryan Murray , I sat comfortably in my easy chair awaiting to hear the words...'Nail Yakupov'.
As has been mentioned by several articles in the MSM and in blogs everywhere Nail has not been the dominant player for some time. (Since beginning of Subway series). Still today, I am a believer of Nail and while Nail is not looking like the #1 Pick OV at this moment, Nail is also not under performing.
We all know he has gone through a lot emotionally and physically these past 8 months. With that saying, this is one fan and blogger who is willing to defend and back Nail up for what we are seeing for on ice production.
Arguments against Yakupov's Performance;
1) Not a team player. Will shoot when he should pass.
2) Floats too much at the blue line and not being defensively aware enough
3) Does not show hard ethic and takes some shifts off
4) Not scoring a point per game in the KHL any longer
5) Should have produced more points at the Subway Series against Jr players
6) Producing only 1 point per game in U20 World Championships
7) Is a big mouth and brags too much
8) Won't speak to MSM after winning against Swiss
....the list goes on.
In Defence of Yakupov;
1) His schedule has not seen a match when it comes to International travel. No player, Jr or PRO has seen the travel he has over these months.
2) Has made a coaching adjustment from Sarnia to KHL-Russian National Team-KHL-Russian National Team. That is not even accounting for some new things that he was taught at Oilers Development Camp last July that he will be trying to develop on in game situations. Each Coach has a different way they want the game played and Nail IMO is a player who will best succeed with good structure.
3) Quality of linemates. His linemates are ok skill level, but none are world class or even high end skill. That includes not only his National Team but also his KHL team. It still puzzles me how the Russian coaching does not play Yakupov and Grigorenko together at least on the PP in games or at least when the game is on the line.
4) No one ever said Yakupov was a leader and should be Captain of Russia. He has been criticized for not being the leader a captain should be (Maybe the reason he is trying to hard? Just a suggestion). Some say he should not have accepted the role then. Really? Then all fans do is criticize Nail for not appreciating the honour given to him and acting like a baby. He is doomed if he does and doomed if he doesn't.
5) Yakupov speaks in his Russian language and gets blasted by Canadians for saying 'dirty'. When later it gets discovered the word is misinterpreted media start saying he is just back tracking. When he declines a interview (which is common in Russia, unlike North America) people are freaking out cause he is acting like a Prima-Dona. What? Sure maybe he should have done that interview, but chances are pretty high MSM and bloggers the world round, were just looking for more material to bury his backside.
6) Nail is the type of player who excels best when he does not have to carry the workload and that will be evident IMO when he starts playing with the Oilers Skill players like Eberle, RNH, Hall, Schultz, etc...The best quality linemate Nail has really played with was Alex Galchenyuk and we all know how well that went. For those saying you can't be a superstar player unless you can carry the load yourself. Really? OK how about we let Yakupov focus on his one timers and pounce in 35 plus goals a season. Maybe not superstar like but definitely a rare commodity in the NHL.
7) Why does Nail shoot when he should pass? Because he believes he can score. He will over time learn when to pass more but in the mean time , this is one fan who appreciates that a player has a shoot first mentality.
8) Nail has always had a tendency to float around the blue line waiting for a quick pass. Some of that will be learning when and where to do it in game situations. Professional coaching will make the difference with Nail, that I am confident of. Nail just needs a few stronger personalities to lead him and you will see him grow in leaps and bounds. No offence to all his past coach's, including the KHL but they are NOT NHL coaching material.
9) Hard work ethic is subjective. One person may say he shows lots while another will totally disagree. Yakupov strives to win and every winner knows you need to work hard. Watch all the greats play hockey and sometimes you can find a shift where they can appear as if they are not working hard enough.
10) Even though several people think he is under producing, it only showing how good he really is. If Yakupov producing a ppg in Jr against the best in the world is his worst, I am willing to be patient for a player like that. Producing just under a ppg in the KHL as a 19 year old, plays between 14-16 mins a game only and is not always on the #1 PP unit and on 3rd line lots of games. Thats not good? Folks who think otherwise, need to spend some more time learning the game of hockey. His ppg production in the KHL is exactly where I thought it would be and even mentioned so here at Oilers Jambalaya.
I could go on for my reasons to defend Nail Yakupov but truth is, he does not need myself or anyone else to come to his defence. Give him some space, finish this tourney, either complete his first full season in the KHL or get a NHL half season completed and we will not even be having this same conversation.
Granted, we have not seen the best from Nail Yakupov in a couple months, but if this is his worst, I can't wait to see his best. IMO, Nail needs to get back over to the North American ice and start his NHL coaching and physical development. I look forward to seeing Nail debut in a Oilers uniform, and for what it's worth, I am totally ok with his learning his trade on the 3rd line and earning his ice time as coach recognizes he is ready to take on more responsibility. Let Nail earn his time with Horcoff on the 3rd line and give him #2 PP unit time. He will produce, he is too much all world talent not too.
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