• It might be time for the Edmonton Oilers and Nail Yakupov to cut ties

    Jared Clinton
    Yakupov Featured

    When the Edmonton Oilers drafted Nail Yakupov first overall in 2012, the belief was they were getting the final piece to the incredible offensive juggernaut they seemed like they were trying to build.

    Two seasons into his career, however, the offensive numbers aren’t there and, at times, Yakupov has been more detrimental to the team’s efforts than anything. For the sake of both parties, it might be time for the Oilers and Yakupov to go their separate ways.

    It’s no secret that the Oilers have struggled defensively and in goal, so there’s a necessity to, in some way, get help on the defensive side of the puck. Edmonton’s front office did great work to bring in defenseman Mark Fayne and winger Benoit Pouliot, both great possession players, but two players won’t change the direction of an organization overnight.

    That’s why in order to move forward, it might be in Edmonton’s best interest to move Yakupov. Only 21, Yakupov is still young enough that his potential outweighs many of his shortcomings, and when your lineup already boasts Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Taylor Hall, there’s plenty of offense to go around. More than anything, what Edmonton needs to start building is the supporting cast.

    As it stands, Yakupov hasn’t been anywhere near the effective player the Oilers had been hoping for. His rookie season was fantastic, no doubt, but since his first campaign he’s been unable to piece it all together. Look no further than his zone starts when compared to his possession numbers.

    In 2013-14, his sophomore campaign, Yakupov started over 40 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone. However, his Corsi For percentage sat at 44.8 percent, far from where you’d expect from a player that should be a star. Statistically speaking, it was a down year for the Russian winger, and to this point in 2014-15, it’s going to be another subpar year.

    It’s not Yakupov’s 28-point pace that’s concerning – even though that would still be less than his rookie total – it’s that he’s continuing to get dominated possession-wise. At 43 percent, Yakupov isn’t benefitting from an even higher percentage of offensive zone faceoffs in 2014-15.

    While there’s reason to be concerned for the Oilers, there has to be some thought put into Yakupov’s future, too. For whatever reason, Edmonton is not the fit for him at this point in his career. Whether it has spawned from a lack of ice time – Yakupov gets little more than 14 minutes a night – or a continual losing culture, he’s better than his stat lines reads.

    If his game continues to slide, it’s going to do nothing to help his future – or his future value. That’s why now is as good a time as any to ship Yakupov out.

    The exchange for Yakupov could bring in a host of talent, too. Moving a first overall talent wouldn’t scare off any potential suitors, but rather, serve to show that Edmonton knows he’s got trade value and could bring them the return they need to help move the Oilers forward. While a top-flight defenseman might not be in the conversation, a second-pairing player along with a couple of picks isn’t out of the question. The Oilers don’t need a full rebuild; they just need to start picking up the complimentary pieces.

    Yakupov isn’t forcing the Oilers hand, but eventually they’re going to have to make a decision. It’s clear many of the players don’t want the axe to fall on coach Dallas Eakins, and if management feels the same, the next option is to move someone out. There’s never any reason to make a panic trade, but shipping out Yakupov would be far from.

    While the Oilers are coming off of six straight losses and a 7-1 blowout at the hands of the Blackhawks, there have been positives in Edmonton this season. But if the Oilers are going to take any step forward, someone has to go to get some help on the backend. And that’s why it might be time for Yakupov and the Oilers to split.

  • Hockey history made at American League game Saturday night

    Jared Clinton
    Opening faceoff of the Frozen Dome Classic (Dave Kliment)

    When the Frozen Dome Classic was announced it seemed like a stretch that the Syracuse Crunch could break the US hockey indoor attendance record of 28,183 set by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    On Saturday night, not only did the Crunch break the record, they smashed it.

    With a grand total of 30,715 fans inside Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, the home of the NCAA’s Syracuse Orange basketball team, the Crunch now single-handedly own the US record for indoor hockey attendance. Read more

  • Jason Demers introduces himself to Stars by levelling Kings’ Stoll with huge hit

    Jared Clinton
    DemersStoll Featured

    There’s a lot that comes with getting traded. For instance, there are unfamiliar surroundings, changed expectations, a different role, and new teammates.

    Jason Demers may still be getting used to being in Dallas, but he certainly ingratiated himself to his teammates in his first game with the Stars. With less than five minutes gone in the first period, Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll had to look back to catch a pass when Demers caught him with a nasty hip check: Read more

  • The bite will be back for the Florida Panthers soon

    Adam Proteau
    Florida's BB&T Center (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

    SUNRISE, FLORIDA – For the grand majority of their 20 seasons of existence, the Florida Panthers have done little to instill a sense of confidence in their fan base. An average of two playoff appearances every tenth of a century tends to have that effect. A regularly changing ownership group doesn’t help much, either. But the franchise’s current powerbrokers know full well they can’t change that with hollow guarantees, PowerPoint presentations or slick ad campaigns.

    The only thing that will fill their 19,250-seat arena on a nightly basis is what they’ve consistently lacked since their inaugural season in 1993-94: wins, and many of them. Read more

  • Celebrity Overtime: Eight questions with Friends star Matt LeBlanc

    Amber Dowling
    Matt LeBlanc (Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME)

    Stars like hockey too, and everyone once in a while they’re more interested in chatting up last night’s game than they are in pontificating about their latest TV or film projects. In our weekly “Celebrity Overtime” feature, we take five minutes with various celebrities to discuss their love of the good old-fashioned game.

    We might all just want to ask Matt LeBlanc “how you doin’,” but as it turns out, his history with the game is a story worth telling. Before he became a mega TV star thanks to his 10-season stint as Joey on Friends, he used to spend lots of time at the arena. His former hockey playing days have even translated to his new Showtime series Episodes, on which he plays a heightened version of himself. (That character plays a hockey coach on a show called Pucks!—it’s all very meta.)

    Here, LeBlanc recalls the one time former co-star Matthew Perry dragged him back on the ice, the hockey culture in L.A. and more. Read more

  • Miracle on Manchester to a silent Maple Leaf Square, the five greatest NHL comebacks

    Toronto Maple Leafs Fans Watching Stanley Cup Game At Tailgate Party In Toronto

    In the Swedish third league on Wednesday, one of the most incredible comebacks in hockey history happened.

    Down 3-0 in the third period, IFK Arboga scored with just under 12 minutes left in the third period. Then they scored again 20 seconds later. And again nine seconds after that. And once more 30 seconds following their third goal. In less than two minutes, Arboga had erased a three-goal deficit to Grastorps, and held on for a 4-3 victory.

    While there are no four-goals-in-two-minutes comebacks in NHL history, these are the five best. Read more

  • David Aslin goes between the legs to embarrass goaltender

    Jared Clinton

    If you’ve never heard of David Aslin, you’ll remember his name after seeing this ridiculous between the legs goal.

    Thing is, Aslin, a 25-year-old winger for the Swedish League’s Leksands IF, probably wasn’t too well known around Leksand before a trade sent him there from his former Vaxjo Lakers. But after going top shelf, between the legs on Lulea’s Joakim Lundstom, you have to think he’s going to be a fan favorite awfully quickly: Read more