Krueger's insight on Yakupov's struggles

Updated: October 16, 2013, 9:41 AM ET
By Craig Custance

Ralph Krueger is known for his communication skills. He's also fascinated by sports psychology. His time in Europe has made the Manitoba native a bit of an expert on European players among Canadian coaches, so much so that Team Canada added him to its staff to scout players and tactics in Europe after he was dismissed as the Edmonton Oilers' head coach.

In retrospect, that background made him almost the ideal coach to break Nail Yakupov in to the North American game when Yakupov made his NHL debut last season. Looking back, they were a great fit; Krueger likes to talk to his players, and Yakupov was always around to talk.

"He's completely a rink rat," Krueger said when reached by phone from Switzerland on Tuesday. "I tried to have conversations with all the players, and Nail's conversations ended up being a little longer. What was really easy about speaking to Nail was, he was always the last one in the rink. He was still there when we were riding the bikes."

I didn't call Krueger to get his reaction on Yakupov's benching -- which he said he hasn't been watching closely -- but to get his thoughts on how he anticipates Yakupov responding. Yakupov was a healthy scratch in consecutive games by new Oilers coach Dallas Eakins and will make his return to the lineup against the Penguins on Tuesday night.

One of Krueger's observations suggests that this has a good chance of ending well for the Oilers and Yakupov, an opinion that is shared by a few others involved with the player's development.