During practice on Wednesday, Dallas Eakins had a long conversation on the ice with Nail Yakupov. It wasn’t your normal coach/player conversation.
“The conversation with Yak was simple. I see him trying to hard to be better defensively and to learn this defensive system that we’re trying to implement. I thought he made a couple of good plays defensively yesterday. I saw the process go through his head on the ice. That was encouraging for me.”
Eakins also made sure to talk about recent rumours surrounding Yakupov potentially being dealt and wanted to ensure the Russian forward knew that there was no truth to them.
“I wanted to also let him know that these reports in the media, the people that are making trades for him are absolutely, 100% untrue. This kid is not going anywhere.
“Guys like Joe Thornton. The kid here, Stamkos. Those guys struggled early in their careers and, boy, they turned out to be pretty good players. Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, look in my eyes and let him know that we’re attached at the hip. We’re going to make him a better player. It’s okay to struggle.”
Thornton only had three goals and seven points in his first season where he played only 55 games and was frequently a healthy scratch. In his second season, he had 41 points and 16 goals in 81 contests. Yakupov had 17 in 48 games last year but only one goal and three points in 14 contests this season.
“And I let him know about Thornton and Stamkos. It’s part of the process. He’s 20 years old and we’re not going to just suddenly give up on a guy because he’s going through a rough stretch. The people writing their columns and their blogs, they can create their excitement that way but all that’s out there is 100% untrue.”