Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins doesn’t make the final personnel call for this team.
But he took it upon himself to squash those Nail Yakupov-to-the-Rangers trade rumors. He delivered that message to Yakupov personally.
“I wanted him to know that all of these reports in the media, the people making up trades about him are absolutely, 100 percent untrue,” Eakins told the Edmonton Journal. “This is not going anywhere. Guys like Joe Thornton (Boston) and the kid here (Steven) Stamkos . . . those guys struggled early in their careers, but, boy they turned out to be pretty good players.”
(The Bruins eventually gave up on Thornton, but we won’t interrupt Eakins. He is on a roll.
“Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, to look in my eyes, and let him know we’re attached at the hip. We’re going to make him a better player and it’s OK to struggle. I let him know about Thornton and Stamkos. It’s part of the process. He’s 20 years old. We’re not suddenly giving up on a guy because he’s going through a rough stretch and the people writing their columns and their blogs can create their excitement that way. What’s out there is 100 percent untrue.”
Eakins could not make the same hard promise to veteran winger Ales Hemsky, a highly skilled forward who has grown stale in Edmonton. When Oilers president Kevin Lowe and adviser Mark Messier scored the Penguins-Rangers game, the New York media perked up.
That fact, plus Yakupov's season-long struggle, sent the rumor mill whirling. Yakupov has yet to embrace the NHL style of play, as this comment to the Edmonton Journal last month suggests:
“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.”