Free Nail Yakupov.
If you haven’t been following the Blues too closely, you may not be aware that Yakupov – the player the Blues acquired through a trade just before the season started – has been riding the pine. Yakupov started off the year pretty hot, but soon cooled and it has resulted in multiple healthy scratches.
As you might imagine, Yakupov isn’t too happy about that fact he isn’t playing and said so publicly. Ken Hitchcock responded with the type of comments you’d expect, stating Yakupov doesn’t need to do anything differently and that he’s just the odd man out. Hitchcock reiterated that there’s competition within the group.
Hitchcock’s comments are fine on the surface, but as soon as you remember that Dmitrij Jaskin is starting over Yakupov, they sound a bit insane. It may be tough to change things when you’re winning, but when the only offense you’ve found came at home against a tired, bad Avalanche team, it may be OK to tinker with things.
That’s not a slam on Jaskin. He’s a perfectly fine option in certain situations and is a nice depth skater. He’s the grittier, more physical player of the two. But, considering the Blues have been struggling to find consistent offense, why not keep Yakupov in the mix?
Jaskin had a decent amount of ice time in the two games Yakupov was recently scratched for (12:41 and 12:09) and while he contributed an assist in the 5-0 win against Colorado, that’s about where the positives end. Jaskin had just one shot in those 24 minutes of playing time.
The Blues know exactly what they’re going to get from Jaskin. After 150 career games there aren’t going to be any surprises. Jaskin’s upside is known. The same can’t be said for Yakupov. Coming off an important change of scenery, Yakupov may still have room to grow and his upside could be (and should be) considerably higher than the known upside of Jaskin. You’d think the Blues would want to figure out what Yakupov can bring to the table as soon as possible before the year enters its grueling middle stages.
Yakupov is a wild card, but he’s an exciting wild card. Jaskin is reliable, but less exciting especially when it comes to offense. It’s early, but the Blues are really mishandling their newest asset.