For a handful of atrocious NFL teams this season, the “Suck for Luck” campaign has been a light at the end of the tunnel for their fans. This of course refers to idea that an atrocious season could actually benefit the franchise by having the opportunity to draft a potential superstar.
While he might not be the household name that Andrew Luck is yet, hockey has its own youngster that fans of the Blue Jackets are starting to get excited about.
His name is Nail Yakupov, and the campaign for his services is being called “Fail for Nail.”
Nail is an 18-year-old Russian winger currently playing with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, perhaps the top Junior hockey league in the world. At 5’11 and 180 pounds, he is by no means an intimidating physical presence on the ice, but after surpassing Tampa Bay Lighting superstar Steven Stamkos’ rookie record with 101 points last year, most of his critics have been silenced.
With the Blue Jackets sitting in last place in the NHL as of Friday, they are considered the front-runner to draft the explosive scorer that is already drawing comparisons to lightning-quick Russians Pavel Datsyuk and Pavel Bure. TSN’s hockey commentator Bob McKenzie has said that “Yakupov is by far the best player available”, and many scouts even believe he is a once-in-a-generation talent.
Along with dismal play on the ice, front office issues are starting to plague the Jackets as well. The agent of Derick Brassard, the Jackets’ 2006 first-round pick, has publicly blasted head coach Scott Arniel for his lineup management. Rumors continue to swirl around a possible exit for All-Stars Rick Nash or Jeff Carter, although General Manager Scott Howson adamantly denies they are looking to deal them.
Currently the Jackets have the third-worst attendance in the NHL. To make matters worse, according to Forbes magazine, the Jackets have lost $13.7 million over the last year, which is significantly hurting the NHL’s revenue. This should be particularly concerning to fans because, as seen in Atlanta, it isn’t unlikely that the NHL would relocate a financially struggling team at the drop of a hat.
Barring a historic turnaround, the Jackets will likely miss out on the playoffs for the third-straight season, but much like the Indianapolis Colts, their atrocious performance could have a silver lining.
It’s much too early to start rooting against the Jackets, or to even be calling 18-year-old Nail Yakupov a savior, but if the struggles continue, fans may not have a choice.