The Edmonton Oilers are a young team in need of actual NHL players. As Craig MacTavish begins the process of adding a legit center, a stud defender and a quality winger or two, it occurs to the fanbase that these assets are going to require payment in kind.
Which brings us to Nail Yakupov. In 2012, the Oilers marched down the aisle as a house (apparently) divided. Some scouts wanted Ryan Murray, and others in the organization insisted on Nail Yakupov. The trump business card won the day, and Yak City was the pick.
Now, coming on two years later, a new General Manager and a new coach may have a different plan. And that's fine, maybe the scouts who preferred Murray two years ago were wrong and the forces who may want the Russian gone this season are correct.
I don't buy it though.
If the Oilers were correct in drafting Nail Yakupov in 2012 summer, they need to stay the course and run with this young man for at least another season. The future success of the team depends on getting full value for assets gained, and there's not a chance in hell Yakupov is going to get you full value this summer.
With that in mind, where do the Oilers go from here? Well, I have an idea, I'd like to put it down in writing now. If the Oilers are truly interested in getting full value for Yakupov, and that would seem to be a reasonable plan, then it might be an idea to devote the season to putting him in a really good situation.
How to do that?
Well, making him a feature performer on the 1PP is a nice start. Yakupov's shot from the high slot is certainly good enough to score goals with the man advantage, he did it as a rookie.
Second, find him a center who can play with skill and also has an idea about the NHL game. I'd suggest Mikhail Grabovski, but your mileage may vary.
Finally, and this is a big one, stop trying to turn him into a two-way player. One of the reasons we heard the scouts hesitate about Yakupov was his one dimensional game. Unlike Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose two-way ability was touted, or Taylor Hall, who clearly had the ability to push the river as a rookie, young Yakupov is more of a marksmen and a freewheeling offensive player.
That has its advantages and its issues.
As I travel around the city, there's a feeling growing from the people I speak to that Nail Yakupov has played his last game as an Oiler. That could be a major error.
If Nail Yakupov ends up in Carolina or New York or God forbid the Pacific Coast highway, and delivers thunder of the Gods offense for the next decade?
If you think Oiler fans are pissed off now, wait until Yakupov starts exacting his vengeance.
Lord have Mercy.