Everyone in the hockey world knows how many goals Nail Yakupov has scored for the Edmonton Oilers so far this season. It’s a glaring goose egg that supposedly signals a road bump in the development of a borderline generational talent. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out what kind of pace Yakupov is on right now.
At his current rate, he’d finish with 11 assists, 0 goals and a minus-23 rating through 82 games.
While that shows you how awful he’s been so far in 2013-14, it also illustrates how unsustainable the slump is for someone as talented as Yakupov. Everyone chatters about how player X’s current shooting percentage won’t hold up over an 82-game season, or team Y’s power play can’t possibly stay this hot.
You rarely see the same logic applied to slumps. The tendency is to pile on and look for reason where there isn’t any. This is a simple matter that has been blown out of proportion. This is an nine-game scoring slump that will be a blip on the radar once Yakupov scores three goals in two games.
While sophomore slumps can sometimes extend through months, the 20 year-old must dig deep and find a way to begin producing now. He’s already lashed out via the media and he’s already been scratched for two games. It’s time to settle in and do what he does best: score goals.
He’s talked about how much he loves to have the puck on his stick and burns to produce points. This is his big chance. With the Oilers reeling after losing six of their last seven games, the rock bottom has already been reached. Things can’t get any worse.
Taylor Hall won’t be available for the foreseeable future. The veteran leadership of Ryan Smyth will be missed. Jordan Eberle is banged up.
This is Yakupov’s shot to prove he can be the man. The beginning of this season will be totally forgotten with one strong game. Just one. He needs to start with a single solid performance and move forward from there. He doesn’t need to beat the world. He just needs to stop beating himself and see that red light go on once.
Then the fever will catch, and he’ll be out of the dark.