Yakupov loves scoring goals, and after scoring six goals in his final three games he was hoping to carry that momentum into this season. It hasn’t happened, yet, and you can see the frustration in his game. It seems many in Oilersnation want to blame his linemates for his lack of production. That is a lame excuse, and not one that Yakupov is thinking about.
Elite players don’t think that way. Yakupov can score regardless of who he plays with, and when I spoke to him yesterday he said he just needs to shoot more and react better to plays. He’s played most of the season with Boyd Gordon, who has a point in every game, so the excuse of weak linemates is not only a cop out, but also inaccurate.
Yakupov needs to shoot more, but he also needs to work harder to get into better shooting lanes. It is only three games, and no one should be that concerned, but stop blaming his linemates. Gordon is playing the best offensive hockey of his career, yet he’s an anchor for Yakupov? It doesn’t jive.
Yakupov will start producing, and when he does it will likely coincide with him simply working harder in every aspect of his game.
Why is this a stupid controversy? Well, Yakupov’s shooting the puck more at 5v5 this year than he did last year. So far this year, he’s taken 5 shots in 36.37 minutes. Now, 36.37 minutes alone makes this a stupid controversy. What also makes this a stupid controversy is Yak saying that he needs to shoot more. His 5v5 shooting rate is way up from last year – last year, he took 5.6 S/60 at 5v5. This year, he’s at 8.2 S/60.
Now, last year was a bit of a fiasco because shots come off of zone time and the Oilers seemingly had a black hole behind them, sucking all but Hall, RNH and Eberle towards their own end but the guy is generating more shots than he did last year already. So people should relax a little bit about this.
Not only that, but Yakupov’s actually shooting the puck a fair bit relative to his team as well – his 5v5 shot rate is second on the team so far, behind only David Perron. It wouldn’t stun me if, when all’s said and done, Yakupov ends up second in 5v5 shot volume on the team, behind only Taylor Hall. It’s hard to disagree with Gregor’s stuff about shooting more, in that it’s Mom and Apple Pie stuff, but Yakupov’s shooting just fine.
It’s fairly obvious that Eakins has some things he wants to see Yakupov improve at and I’d guess that Yakupov’s gliding around is a habit that they’re going to try and break him of. I kind of suspect that they’ve talked to him on the bench a few times about it because he’s had the odd shift like this where he’s in Kill Mode:
There’s four hits in there (one when the screen turns grey) in a 15 second window. He was credited with 41 during the entire 2013 season, so that’s like 10% of his total from 48 games. It’s not how he played the game last year. Of course, you still see stuff like this:
Yakupov glides back, doesn’t get on the wall to support the defenceman and then glides towards Kesler. This is the kind of stuff that I suspect Eakins is talking about when he talks about it being a process with some ups and downs with Yakupov.
Anyway, this was the bit that really grabbed me:
Last year many wrote how Eberle’s shooting % was unattainable, and he would clearly regress. It is interesting how none of those same people wrote similar stories about Yakupov. Yakupov had 17 goals on 81 shots for a sizzling 21 SH%. If Eberle’s 18.9% wasn’t attainable, shouldn’t those people expect Yakupov to regress as well?
Perception and human nature is a funny thing. It seems some have decided it is Eberle vs. Yakupov, instead of hoping that both have great success. I sense that some would rather see Yakupov succeed than Eberle, mainly because he was the #1 overall pick. After a 76-point season many stats guys wanted to show why Eberle couldn’t maintain those numbers, yet after Yakupov’s rookie campaign many automatically assumed he’d become a 35-goal man. Why was Eberle’s season critiqued due to SH%, but Yakupov’s used as a stepping stone to future success?
I think Jason means “unsustainable” and “sustainable” there. To me, the difference between the two guys is kind of obvious. Yakupov’s not going to shoot 21% for his career, which I think a lot of people have pointed out. He had a 42.4% Corsi% though last year. If you assume, as seems reasonable, that this was tied to some bad tactics, then it’s pretty safe to assume that that’s going to be way up this year.
Eberle’s big year was a bit of a different fish. For one, he was 21 and as much as people hate to acknowledge it (google “Dustin Penner” and “second full year in the NHL” if you don’t believe it), the hockey improvement curve at the NHL level is pretty brief. Second, he wasn’t playing in black hole possession circumstances – the Oilers had a 48.2% Corsi% with him on the ice. That’s still not great but the space between that and Eberle’s best year, whatever that might be, is a lot smaller than the space between Yakupov’s Corsi% last year and whatever his best year will be.
A rising tide tends to lift all boats in terms of shots. Eberle’s shot volume increased last year along with the shot volume of his line as a whole. One of the big arguments that I heard when cast a chary eye Eberle’s way in the summer of 2012 was that he would shoot more. I think that, in retrospect, I probably underestimated that a bit. In 2011-12, Eberle took 23.6% of the shot attempts when he was on the ice while taking 7.1 S/60 at 5v5. In 2013, those numbers changed to 23.1% and 8.9 S/60 at 5v5. That’s with a 50.7% Corsi%.
So, yes, Eberle shot more last year, but he didn’t shoot with any more frequency, relative to the team. This is an important point, in that I’ve wondered if shot rates are kind of tied to the team that way. In any event, to circle back around to Yakupov, he took about 25.3% of the shot attempts when he was on the ice last year. He’s only now the same age that Eberle was in his rookie year. I expect that this number will improve with age and, regardless, as the Oilers become a better possession team, he’s going to get more shots. Even if he stays at 8.2 S/60 at 5v5 for the season, that’s a more than 45% increase in his shot volume. It’s going to cover up a pretty healthy chunk of the decline in shooting percentage.
35 goals might be a bit rich as far as an expectation goes but we’ve seen with first overall picks that there tends to be a point where *snap* they get it. It happened with Hall, who turned into a guy who drove the play in his second year. It happened with Stamkos. Tavares took a year longer but was suddenly an offensive force. Hockey development isn’t a straight line thing as it is and with players with the talent to go first overall, there just seems to be a moment where it clicks for them. Given all of this (and the reasonable suspicion that the negative indicators are reasonably fixable, through experience or better tactics), I’m not sure why you’d need to imagine some sort of complex psychological reason for why there’s less expectation of a Yakupov falloff. He has more areas in which it’s reasonable to imagine him improving and, given his age, more time in which to do it.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com