Nail Yakupov and the Edmonton Oilers have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The former first-overall selection was scratched in back-to-back games earlier this week, and was not too happy about it. The benching didn’t seem to get Yakupov going either, as he came back but didn’t play much.
Coach Dallas Eakins seems to have another trick up his sleeve though, and it is coming straight out of the Alex Ovechkin-revival playbook. From the Edmonton Sun: “The rumors are true, the Oilers are moving Nail Yakupov. From right wing to left wing, that is, as head coach Dallas Eakins tries to jump start the slumping Russian sniper.”
Eakins spoke to the Sun about his reasoning behind the switch:
I’m finding that whoever plays with [Eberle] plays well. And I’m not sold on guys playing their off wing. I know he’s had success on the right side, but I’m finding he’s having trouble getting the puck to the net (on his backhand). We’re going to go back to the basics with him and put him on the left side.
That means that Yakupov will suddenly find himself on a line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That’s quite an upgrade based on where the Russian forward was sitting at this time five days ago.
Could this have been the plan all along? Is Eakins some sort of motivational genius? If this maneuver with Yakupov works—one so drastic that is kick-started a rumor mill all on its own and had the media swarming—it will look like it. Edmonton needs a huge boost, not just a few goals.
There might not be a better way to get that than combining two No. 1 draft picks on a line with the electric Eberle. Even if it doesn’t pan out, this is one of the most engaging storylines in the NHL right now. Stay tuned.