EDMONTON – Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said Tuesday that all the talk about Nail Yakupov won’t sway him one way or another.
Eakins was responding to comments made by Yakupov’s agent Igor Larionov to ESPN.com on Monday.
Larionov’s message to the Oilers, via ESPN.com, was to let the 20-year-old Yakupov play. The 2012 first overall pick was a healthy scratch for two games earlier in the season and is averaging 15:28 of ice time a game this year. However, during the last four games, he’s played for less than 11 minutes.
“I asked Craig, I said, ‘If you guys (are) not happy with him or you have no room for him … we’re willing to make a move. Any team,”‘ Larionov said. “That happens and that’s part of life. Let’s move on.”
“We’ve got to do something because I don’t see any trust to me now,” explained Yakupov on Tuesday. “I play lower and lower in minutes, and I just want to help my team try to win every game.
“I haven’t had much time to do that. It’s very hard to watch the game from the bench when my teammates are fighting for the puck, for points.”
The 20-year-old winger wouldn’t say if he asked his agent to go public with the ice time concerns, and said he didn’t talk to his teammates about how to handle the situation.
“I want to be part of the Oilers,” he said. “I’d like to be here, I’d love to be in Edmonton. I love this city, and I’d love to play with these players.”
Yakupov said he “wasn’t asking for a trade,” but explained, “Sometimes I’m sitting, I think, too much, and just watching hockey from the bench… I just want to help, I just want to play, I just want to have fun.”
Eakins said he understands Yakupov’s frustrations, and said he’s open to talking to him.
“If Nail has an issue, every player in there knows, my door is open.”
“We’re all frustrated. It’s how you handle your frustration and how you manage your frustration is how you’re going to get better.”
However, Eakins stressed the public comments won’t change how he handles the bench.
“We have a lot of players who are frustrated… When you get into where we’re at right now with our record, frustration mounts. We all want better. We all want more. But we have to earn the right to get more.”
“My plan for Nail stays the same… he’ll play tomorrow, and I’m sure he will play well.”
When asked about the public way Larionov and Yakupov expressed their frustrations, Eakins said it’s up to the player.
“If players want to make a stand or if an agent wants to be public about things that are usually kept very private so they do protect the player, then so be it,” he said.
“It’s just part of the game. It has absolutely no effect on how I’m going to run our team.”
Eakins stressed the whole situation has also not changed his feelings about Yakupov.
“It doesn’t affect my view of the kid. I like the kid. He’s a passionate kid. He works hard. He has a lot to learn about the game. This is not going to sway me… He’ll play the minutes that he’s earned, and that’ll be it.”