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On Scratching Nail Yakupov

How can we best alienate an extremely gifted young talent?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, Edmonton head coach Dallas Eakins decided that it was a good idea to make Nail Yakupov a healthy scratch. It seems obvious to me that this was a terrible idea. Not only is Nail Yakupov miles better at playing hockey than several Oilers who did play Saturday, it's also difficult to understand how this might pay dividends longer term. Joanne Ireland grabbed some quotes from each of the parties yesterday, so let's see if looking at those helps this to make some sense.

First, let's look at what Eakins had to say about what he hoped to achieve with the scratch:

The kid's passion is to score and he was just going to take it all on himself to do that. I don’t care how good you are, you can’t produce by yourself in this league. You have to use your linemates, so it was more of a reset button for him. He can come in fresh with a new perspective.

Sounds possibly constructive if Yakupov buys in. Of course, it's tough to see how Yakupov is going to look at things that way when you know that...

he takes it real personally when things aren’t going his way.

Shockingly, Yakupov seems to have taken it personally, and this "opportunity" to hit the reset button had him venting about some of the things that the new coaching staff has asked him to do:

I’m not happy about it. I just want to play every game. I’m going to play my game. I’m not going to change but maybe play better without the puck, or forecheck more, but I love playing with the puck. I really don’t like skating all the time, and forechecking, and hitting somebody every shift. I don’t think it’s my game.

Doesn't exactly sound like a man who's loving his relationship with the new coaching staff. And now today we've got Lowetide pointing out some Twitter quotes from a legit Russian journalist about Yakupov potentially heading home. With an IIHF suspension on the way if he leaves before his entry-level contract comes to an end, I can't imagine Yakupov leaving Edmonton anytime soon, but that kind of sentiment in the air is exactly what you don't want to have happen.

Nail Yakupov is a tremendously gifted hockey player, and I'm sure that Dallas Eakins wants him to be great. Sending Yakupov to the press-box seems like a terrible way to approach that goal.