It’s Friday and that means it’s time for the Friday NHL headlines. I’ll take a look at a couple of stories that people are talking about and this weekend’s games to watch. I’ll also have some video with “First Star, Worst Star and Who Blew up the Death Star!” (A renaming of last week’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.) I’ll also be live-tweeting game on CBC against the Flames and the Sharks at 10 p.m. Just go to @DanMountSports.
The Hammering of Nail
This has been an eventful week for the top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft Nail Yakupov. He and the Edmonton Oilers have been struggling to start the season as the team is 1-6-1. This is a young team that has a lot of promise and goal-scoring talent. It also has a first-year coach in former NHLer Dallas Eakins.
Yakupov has really had a hard time this season as the right winger has zero points and a -4 this season. The Russian was a healthy scratch for two straight games before being put back in the lineup against Pittsburgh earlier in the week as he’s trying to get used to having more defensive responsibilities in Eakins’ less freewheeling style. (He missed out on the goal-fest that was the Oilers 6-5 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada) If Yakupov would’ve made the lineup, I’m sure he would’ve enjoyed trying to get on the score sheet.
Rumors have already started about Nail going back to Russia and playing in the Kontinental Hockey League. (His father, Rail, is a former coach and a scout in the league, who foreshadowed problems between his son and Eakins over the summer.) The younger Yakupov’s agent, former NHL and Russian great Igor Larianov, immediately shot down rumors of his client going back to his homeland.
The other big rumor about the former top pick is Yakupov could be traded. The big rumor on the Internet was the Buffalo Sabres dealing All-Stars Tomas Vanek and Ryan Miller to Edmonton for Yakupov and other assorted pieces. However, that rumor seems to be dead as Miller has a limited no-trade clause and Edmonton is a team on that list.
Yakupov’s attitude seems to be the driving factor in all of this. His defensive work does need to pick up. He’s been quoted as saying that likes having the puck more often than not and that won’t fly in Eakins’ world. Russian Olympic scout and former Oiler Igor Kravchuk said Yakupov has "no future" as an Oiler if he doesn’t conform his game to his new coach’s style. Some think that the benching of the Oiler’s leading scorer from last year was a good idea.
Whatever the case, this is going to be a continuing storyline all season if things don’t improve in the City of Champions. The rumors won’t go away as I heard last night there were plenty of front office people that were at the Oilers game against the Islanders. I’m sure plenty of people would love to take a flyer on this dynamic playmaker.
Darcy Regier on the hot seat
The other major story emerging is longtime Buffalo Sabres General Manger Dacry Regier could be on the hot seat according to Canadian network SportsNet and analyst Nick Kypreos. It’s been no secret that the Sabres have struggled in the last few years since new owner Terry Pegula took over.
The Sabres have brought in a lot of young players and high profile free agents like Ville Leino that haven’t panned out. Last season, the team finally fired longtime coach Lindy Ruff and installed Ron Rolston as bench boss. (Rolston had the interim tag removed at the end of the regular season.)
Buffalo has two big name players that are going to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season in Ryan Miller and Tomas Vanek. Sabres fans know that they are in the middle of a rebuild and need to get something for these players. However, Regier has been mum on what’s he been doing or hesitant to pull the trigger.
The organization needs to make some sort of move to get something out of two players that could fetch a crop of young talent that is desperately needed to get the team back on the right track. There’s already been the rumored trade for Yakupov that I mentioned earlier in the column, but there are other rumored deals including one to Minnesota (the same place Darcy sent Jason Pominville).
Sabres fans are fed up with the continued bad play of this team. (Check out this Facebook page asking for Regier’s ouster.) Last night’s game versus Vancouver was the third straight game of a “Fire Darcy” chant. This team is a great hockey market and craves a winning team. They support their team through thick and thin, but need to get rewarded for their devotion.
Here are some games to watch over the weekend and next week if you’re not busy.
Vancouver at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET (NHL Network, Rogers Pacific, Root Pittsburgh): Two goalies that were facing the heat in the offseason (Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury) have played well so far this season. John Tortorella confronts his old nemesis in the Pens.
Toronto at Chicago, 7 p.m. ET (CBC, NHLN, WGN): An Original Six matchup with two solid teams.
Dallas at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Southwest, Fox Sports West): The Stars and Tyler Seguin are playing well. The Kings have recovered from a couple early season slip-ups.
San Jose at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. ET (Comcast Sportsnet CA, Fox Sports Detroit): A possible Stanley Cup preview. Jimmy Howard could be back in net for the Wings for this one.
Colorado at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2, Root Pittsburgh): The Avs may have lost last night to Detroit after a hot start, but are still one of the better teams in the league at the start. The Pens are the Pens.
And now it’s time for my collection of the videos in “First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?”
The Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau’s (not Huberto, ESPN) nifty play vs. Nashville. Matt Duchene’s goal vs. Washington gets second place
St. Louis' Max Lapierre’s cheap shot vs. San Jose's Dan Boyle. Second is this awful hit from the KHL by Grigory Panin on American Matt Murley.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Since long goals are always hilarious (not to the goalie that gives it up), we get this entry from Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier against Carolina. Second place is this terrible miss by Staffan Kronwall.
That’s it for this week. Take care.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.