Thoughts on Yakupov + Radio Spot

It’s hard not to be a fan of Nail Yakupov. He’s young, talented and has an excitement for the game that’s easy to support.

And what I think really expedited and really amplified the support for Yakupov was the unfair treatment he received very early in his NHL career. Around the World Juniors tournament, Canadian writers were quick to critique Yakupov for not being accessible, openly questioning his character and professionalism. On top of that, there was plenty of speculation on draft day that the Oilers’ scouts didn’t want Yakupov. So fans had a player in front of them that wasn’t liked by Edmonton based sports writers AND he wasn’t wanted by the Oilers. How could you not love Yakupov at this point?!

Unfortunately, over the past four years, Yakupov hasn’t produced at an acceptable level. He has never put up a good level of point production at  even-strength, with the Oilers often doing better possession-wise when Yakupov is on the bench (Source: War on Ice)

YakupovCF

The other problem for Yakupov has been his performance on the powerplay. Looking at just the team’s generation of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick For/60), which is a good predictor of powerplay success, we see that when Yakupov has been on the ice, he’s typically been either near or below the overall team average. (Source: Hockey Analysis). This just isn’t good enough for someone that has offensive ability.

YakupovPPFF60

We also know that the Oilers never really surrounded Yakupov, or any of their prospects for that matter, with reliable, experienced players who could provide rookies with on-ice guidance and mentorship. Since joining the league, Yakupov’s five most common centermen at 5v5 have been Sam Gagner (596:14), Derek Roy (534:15), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (426:05), Mark Arcobello (296.34) and Mark Letestu (215:51). (Source: Hockey Analysis). 

I also compiled a a table containing all of the line combinations Yakupov has been a part of for more than 60 minutes at 5v5 since his rookie season. (Source: Corsica Hockey)

Yak Lineys

If you’re interested, I dug into these line combinations a bit more over at The Copper & Blue.

Couple other things:

I find it pretty amusing that the voting results among the Oilers scouts has been made public. You always have to take a grain of salt with this type of journalism. But I’d be interested in seeing what the results were among the Oilers staff when it came to selecting Mitch Moroz at 32nd overall in the same draft as Yakupov. While we’re at it, why not dig into the Oilers scouting staff’s Taylor vs Tyler vote? Maybe when the information will sell papers, we’ll get access to it.

And let’s not kid ourselves: Yakupov was viewed as a number one pick by hockey scouts and insiders. From Bob McKenzie in June 2012:

..Yakupov has been the more or less undisputed top prospect this year from wire to wire, ranked No. 1 in TSN’s pre-season (mid-September), mid-season, (late January), draft lottery (early April) and final (late May) rankings.

Of the 10 scouts surveyed by TSN for its final rankings, eight pegged Yakupov as the top prospect. Everett Silvertip defenceman Ryan Murrayand Yakupov’s linemate, centre Alexander Galchenyuk, were the only other prospects to get a No. 1 ranking. Each had one.

There’s going to be a lot of crap written about Yakupov over the next few weeks and into the summer and probably well after Yakupov is traded away. The key thing to remember is it’s going to be the same group of Edmonton based writers who chase page clicks and rely on sensationalistic journalism to draw readers. I think we’re lucky to have some very good writers that cover the Oilers, but we have to take some of the crap content at times.

We can’t overlook the fact that Yakupov has worked extremely hard to make it to this point. It’s unfortunate that the Oilers didn’t provide the right environment for him or even considered returning him to junior or loaning him to the KHL knowing full well that he was a one dimensional player on draft day. Instead, we’re left with a cautionary tale (the Oilers have become masters at these) about the importance of development and setting realistic expectations for prospects. It’s my hope that Yakupov finds a new home this summer, is given some quality linemates and coaching, and has reasonable, recalibrated expectations placed upon him.

Oilers Positives and Negatives 2013-2014

oilers_sabres_hockey_30120629-e1391483874353

Source: O.Canada.com

It’s disappointing when something doesn’t meet your expectations. It’s even more disappointing when your expectations weren’t even that high to begin with.

My prediction at the start of the year was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th in the west. RNH was recovering from shoulder surgery. Gagner got hurt in pre-season. And, compared to playoff teams from last year, the Oilers defensive core lacked NHL talent and experience. Add to the fact you had a coaching staff with very little experience and a very young top-six, I just couldn’t see this club making the playoffs as a wild card.

Going through my Oilers posts from this season, I’ve compiled what I think were the positives (believe it or not, there were some) and negatives.

Continue reading

Misleading Information Regarding Nail Yakupov

The host of the Oilers’ radio broadcast recently tweeted some misleading information regarding sophomore Nail Yakupov.

First off, the plus/minus stat is an extremely poor method of measuring a player’s performance. Yakupov, without a doubt, is struggling this year. With only nine goals, and eight assists so far, it’s clear he’s well off the pace he set last year. But tacking on a statistic that rewards and punishes players who may have nothing to do with the goal scored is just bad reporting. Other factors that can drive a player’s plus minus down include shoddy goaltending, unlucky bounces and empty net goals.

David Staples of Cult of Hockey put together a nice piece on why the plus/minus stat lacks credibility:

In a five year study — compiled through game in, game out video analysis of every goal scored for and against the Edmonton Oilers from 2008 to 2013 — it’s apparent that on goals for, about 70 per cent of the plus marks are correctly assigned to players who make some contribution, major or minor, to the goal. But 30 per cent of the plus marks are awarded to players who make little or no contribution at all to the goal being scored.

Wilkins’ tweet also comes after a game in which Yakupov, I thought, played pretty well. Against the Stars, Yakupov made some great plays, including a couple hits that lead to a nice scoring chance for the Oilers. He set up Gagner late in the game for a decent scoring chance as well.

Bruce McCurdy of Cult of Hockey provided this summary of Yakupov’s game. A lot of positives, but unfortunately they get overshadowed by misleading stats like plus/minus.

#64 Nail Yakupov, 5. Some good, some bad. Proactive without the puck, and was credited with 3 hits and 3 takeaways. Had one good sequence when he hit Sergei Gonchar on the end boards, stole the puck, walked out for a decent backhand shot, then when Gonchar recovered the rebound chased him down and hit him again. Made one nifty steal for an apparent chance only to bobble it away. Later broke his stick on an attempted one-timer of a nice Hemsky set-up. Made a soft pass to a covered Eberle which resulted in the jailbreak on the 2-1 goal that put the Stars ahead to stay. Wound up -2 after being out for the empty-netter as well, which put him at a frigid -30 on the year, by far the worst in the NHL.

I get that Yakupov is struggling, but let’s not suggest he’ll approach the record for worst plus/minus. Keep the reporting fair and put the right information into the right context.

UPDATED:

Reid was kind enough to clarify his comment and provide some context:

+/- can be misleading. Yak did have a decent game Tuesday. A couple of listeners asked if he could break the all-time record. I provided that stat. Never suggested he would approach the record. Rob and I discussed +/- on the call in show. I don’t feel I did any unfair reporting.

Thoughts on the Oilers: Progress; Heavy Teams; Yakupov Struggling; Omark vs Schremp; International Hockey

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

The month of December has thankfully come to an end for the Oilers. The Oilers won five games out of 15, and went on a six-game losing streak. Taylor Hall has been the lone bright spot on the team, driving the offence. Unfortunately, the team defense continues to weigh down the club.

It’s been a long season, but I think it’s been a vast improvement from last year. There are obviously some major issues, but the team itself is in the first year of it’s second rebuild. A new GM, a new coach and new tactics have to be given some time to see progress. MacTavish has made a ton of moves since coming in and appears to be active in acquiring much needed help. And before critiquing MacTavish, consider the absolute mess that Tambellini left behind.

Heavy Teams

Anytime the Oilers play the likes of St. Louis, Los Angeles or Boston, the discussion of “heavy teams” pops up. It’s a common misconception that size alone can boost a team’s success. The only time size plays an actual role in game outcomes is when it’s used effectively to protect the puck. Possession is critical for success, and size CAN play a factor. But all too often, we see average sized players protect the puck well. Players from a very young age are taught proper skating and body positioning to protect the puck and regain possession. So why size is always trumpeted as the key to success doesn’t make sense to me.

Yakupov Struggling

It’s tough watching the young Russian spend more time on the bench, and recently the pressbox. The guy has a lot of offensive talent, but unfortunately his defensive game is still a  work in progress. Why teams think they can develop guy in the major leagues is beyond me. Eighteen year olds, unless they have some exceptional talent like Ovechkin and Crosby, should spend at least 50 games in the minor leagues before making the jump. A well developed minor league system can develop a player properly and give them time to adjust to the pace of the NHL

As for Yak, it would be easy to suggest that he be sent to the minors. But at this point, considering he had some success last season, it would be beneficial to give him real NHL linemates that can cover for him defensively, rather than pairing him with enforcers.

Omark vs Schremp

I took some heat last week for suggesting that Omark should not be compared to former Oiler Rob Schremp. I just don’t recall Schremp being anything more than a one-dimensional player, whereas Omark has received significant praise for his all-round game.

          Wasting Linus Omark – The Copper and Blue

Schremp’s advanced stats aren’t available, so judging by his boxcar stats alone, nothing stands out. Schremp also had a lot of negative reviews from scouts even before joining the Oilers and has since been a marginal hockey player.

          AHL Prospect Rankings: #8 Rob Schremp – OilersNation

International Hockey

I’m not a follower of junior hockey, but I do keep tabs on which European teams are making progress. It’s a good sign when more countries are improving year to year, as I think the game overall needs to evolve. Hockey will always be limited to a small number of countries, but the more nations involved, the more ideas and tactics can be introduced.

Recommended Links

The State of the Edmonton Oilers: It’s bad but not as bad as it looks – Cult of Hockey

Advanced Stats Crash Course: Possession (Part 1) – FlamesNation

Man of Action – OilersNation

A Look Back at the Oilers 2013 – The Copper and Blue

Thoughts on the Oilers: Nail Yakupov, Love/Hate the Internet; Goaltending; Linus Omark; AHL

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Fun times to be an Oilers fan. With the season all but gone by the 20 game mark, the off-ice noise is starting to take over.

Nail Yakupov

It was tough watching Nail Yakupov get skewered, again, by the media for comments made by his agent over the weekend. It’s become pretty obvious that the kid won’t always get a fair shake in Edmonton, considering his teammates have struggled just as bad, if not worse, this season. But Yakupov does have a ton of support from fans who see past the misinterpreted, erroneous media clips and focus more on his star potential. Let’s just hope he can staring spending more time celebrating goals rather than take leading questions from the reporters.

Love/Hate the Internet

Bad information is just something you have to deal with as a hockey fan. This past weekend was a perfect example of how quickly bogus rumors can spread, as all sorts of stories about Ales Hemsky being dealt were popping up.

On the flip side, the internet, especially Twitter, is great in squashing bad rumors. It’s not an easy process, but following (and blocking) the right people and questioning the content will quickly get you past the bogus information.

The web also provides context to certain stories that may be ignored at first glance. Going back to the Yakupov drama, his agent Igor Larionov provided some scathing comments about the Oilers, which was quickly spread and critiqued.

Thankfully, people who have covered Larionov as a player provided his background and potential reasons as to why he said what he said. George Malik of Kukla’s Korner provides an excellent summary of how the story played out on Twitter and gave some useful context to the story [Kukla’s Korner].

Goaltending

The Oilers are definitely a better team with a goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and the newly-acquired Ilya Bryzgalov. But it came at a cost as Ladislav Smid was shipped out to make cap space for Bryzgalov. Goaltending, in my mind, wasn’t the weakness of this team, so I find the trade-off pretty puzzling considering how bad the defensive lapses have been.

Having said that, maybe Bryzgalov plays average, steals a couple games and makes the defence look better than it is. Then again, it’s goaltending, which some would argue is similar to alchemy [The Copper and Blue].

Linus Omark

In case you missed it, Omark had another great goal playing for the Oklahoma City Baron of the AHL:

 

For whatever reason, Omark seems to have a little more space when he plays in the AHL. A case can be made that the quality of players isn’t the same in the AHL as it is in the NHL. But I’m starting to think it’s the system they have in place in OKC that gives Omark, not only time and space, but some confidence in attacking in the net.

American Hockey League (AHL)

The AHL is a very talented league that, if utilized properly, can develop and prepare players for the NHL. We’ve seen far too many players in the Oilers system get rushed far too quickly, and instead left to struggle and eventually fade away in the NHL. For whatever reason, getting sent to the minors has a stigma about it in Edmonton. But in Detroit, it’s just part of the process and has proven to be a successful strategy every year.

The best teams in the league let their players adjust to the professional game slowly in the AHL or comparable minor leagues. In my opinion, unless they’re exceptional talents like Crosby or Ovechkin, players aren’t ready for the NHL until they have at least two full years in the minors.

Recommended Links

Stars at Oilers G-20, 13-14 – Lowetide

Dallas Stars @ Edmonton Oilers Game 20 Preview – The Copper and Blue

Ilya Bryzgalov Lost in Translation – Tend the Farm

Terry Jones and Yakupov – mc79hockey

Larionov’s Comments Yield a Yakupov Incident on Twitter  – Kukla’s Korner

Thoughts on the Oilers: Rookies; Rumors; Trades; Shots on Net

Source: Edmonton Journal

Source: Edmonton Journal

The Oilers continue on their four-game road trip, where they picked up a win in Florida, but dropped a decision to Tampa Bay. I thought the Oilers played well in both games, even though they lost in Tampa Bay and ALMOST blew it against the hapless Panthers.

Taylor Fedun

Great to see the young defenceman make it to the NHL and score a couple goals right away. Fedun has made a remarkable recovery coming back from a shattered leg which he sustained on an icing play. Since the injury, the NHL has smartened up and introduced hybrid icing to reduce the number of accidents occurring.

Trade Rumors

As long as the Oilers struggle on the ice, they’ll be mired in absolute garbage trade rumors. Nothing irks me more than garbage information, so it’s been a challenging week hearing about Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle potentially on the trading block.

Hockey fans have to remember that teams use media outlets and “insiders” to throw off rival GM’s and potential trade partners. Unfortunately, this leaves a ton of garbage information for fans to decipher through and digest.

Trades

Friday was a busy day for the Oilers as they dealt away defenceman Ladislav Smid to Calgary for prospects, and then later signed free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. As you can imagine, Twitter was flush with junk information on who would be next to go on the Oilers.

I’ll never quite understand how teams justify shipping out players for prospects. Shouldn’t the objective of every team be to find good players and keep good players? Can’t be shocked that the Oil pulled this off once again, I but remain surprised that the team is taking a chance on Bryzgalov. Dubnyk has struggled and the case can be made that the players may not have a lot of confidence in him. But I don’t see how Bryzgalov is a major upgrade, as he was recently bought out by the Flyers. Regardless, lets hope the Oil can get their act together and get some wins on this current road trip.

Shots on Net

Great point by the Oilers Radio Bob Stauffer last night after the loss in Tampa Bay.

Recommended Links

“The Grass Is Always Greener” Is Not To Be Taken Literally – mc79hockey

Omark and Eager Returning to Oklahoma City – The Copper and Blue

Permanent Revolution: Oilers Trade Smid for Magic Beans – The Copper and Blue

The Remarkable Story of Taylor Fedun – OilersNation

Thoughts on the Oilers: Coaching; Captains; Goaltending; and Bad Information

oilers-jets-oct1

Source: Edmonton Journal

When the Oilers season started, I expected the team to chase a final playoff spot. The acquisition of David Perron and the signing of Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ference was a clear indication that the club wanted to compete for a playoff spot, rather than continue developing players.

Fourteen games in, the team has only three wins. They’re playing much better than last year, but the standings aren’t really reflecting that. It’s tough to be optimistic about their chances of making the playoffs, since they’ll need to win more than 60% of their games the rest of the way. It’s definitely possible, but they’ll need a lot of things to go right. Here’s hoping Coach Eakins can turn this club around and get rewarded with wins for their effort.

A few thoughts on the Oilers season thus far.

Coaching

I think the hiring of Eakins as a coach was a great sign that the team was ready to evolve. He has the experience and tactics that could potentially make the team better. What I don’t quite understand is the value he places on fitness. NHL players are typically in great shape already and I know they´ve been getting help from the dhea clinic on trello for their supplements. So I’d think if any of them needed motivation to stay fit, they would be influenced by their own social network.

I’d also be interested to hear Eakins tackle some more challenging questions from the community, such as the ones posted by the crew over at Copper & Blue.

Captaincy

Captains are typically veteran guys that do well with the media, remain heavily involved in the community and serve as a conduit between the coaching staff and the players. Really,  I think 95% of NHL players could potentially be captain, or an assistant. So when a captain is announced, I don’t quite understand the opinions and analysis by fans. In the end, there really is no correlation between the type of captain a team has and the number of wins the team gets.

Goaltending

This is one position that I admire, but don’t value as highly as others. Goalies are just impossible to predict. One season, they’re great. The next, they’re duds. Some goalies are amazing prospects who falter. Others don’t quite mature until late in their careers or after extended seasons overseas.

It never is a good idea to select a goalie early in a draft, which is exactly what the Oilers did selecting Devan Dubnyk in 2004 with a first round pick. Luckily for the Oilers, Dubnyk has developed fairly well and is the clear cut starter for the team. His stats are pretty good, putting him in the middle of the pack of all NHL goalies.

Because of his horrendous start, he’s faced a lot of criticism, most of which is deserved. He has turned it around recently, looking to get back into being the player we expected. Unfortunately, there’s been an endless amount of speculation that the Oilers will replace him with another goaltender, most of whom have similar stats to him or are worse. I understand the desire to go out and get better goaltending. But I think critics are losing sight of the fact that all goalies go through funks, regardless of their draft pedigree.

Bad Information

There is an endless amount of junk information pertaining to hockey. And it gets even worse when the team is struggling on the ice. Case in point: the rumour that the Oilers were willing to part with Nail Yakupov, the number one pick in the 2012 draft, for Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss because of the salaries involved and the fact that Miller is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Yet this rumour grew and morphed into a beast that made its way on to every major news network. It was especially frustrating to read the negative, unwarranted criticism Yakupov was receiving. Forgotten was his rookie season last year, when he led all rookies in points. The focus has now became his attitude and if he becomes a bust.

Recommended Links

So What Happens Now? A Template for the Rest of the Season – The Copper and Blue

Blame Steve Tambellini – OilersNation

“My bad.” Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins admits a mistake with “swarm,” tries to correct it. – The Cult of Hockey