After five years on the outside looking in, the Edmonton Oilers think they can make the playoffs. At least, they say they think they can. What else are they supposed to say?
Optimism is never in short supply when training camps open around the NHL, and it was no different today as the Oilers filed into Rexall Place for fitness testing and medicals.
Results, of course, are considerably harder to come by, at least for the Oilers, who are coming off back-to-back 30th-place finishes and haven’t made the playoffs since they lost Game 7 of the 2007 Stanley Cup final to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Still, when you’re selling hope as the Oilers are after finishing 35 points out of the Western Conference playoff picture — yes, there are legitimate arguments to be made this edition of the team can finish better than dead-last — "playoffs" is the sales pitch.
Coach Tom Renney ran the possibility of the post-season past fans before the wheels fell off on the way to a 25-45-12 record in 2010-11, and there was plenty of the same talk today.
WHAT THEY SAID
Without a scrimmage being played, let alone the Joey Moss Cup or a pre-season game, here’s what some of the Oilers had to say this morning as the team readies for its first on-ice sessions Saturday.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that we can make the playoffs. I think, with the additions that we’ve made, like I said, everyone is a year older, we’re familiar with each other as far as the team play, that we can definitely push very easily getting into a playoff spot.
"I think, for the most part, that’s going to be our goal. That’s what we’re going to be striving to achieve."
"We don’t want to finish 30th. That’s pretty obvious. The end goal for us is to make the playoffs. That’s where we were at the start of last season, but we feel like we can actually do it this year. We have young guys coming back who had a lot of ice and game experience and won’t have that learning experience, and we brought in a couple of great additions. So I don’t see why we can’t get going right away."
"In terms of the team and expectations, I think a realistic goal for us has to be trying to make the playoffs.
"The only way to get these young kids and develop them, get them to the next level, make them become better players, is they have to play the big games. They have to play important games in March, sometimes February.
"That’s a whole other level when you’re fighting for the playoffs. Once you make the playoffs, once you go past each round, you learn to deal with a higher level of pressure. That’s how you push yourselves to become better players. That’s how you gain confidence."
"Enough’s enough. Nothing just ever happens for you. You can’t just sit back and wait for it.
"If you look back at the past of everyone here, minor hockey and junior hockey, pretty much everyone here has won at some level in their life, When you go through years like we’ve gone through, it starts to wear on you.
"Like I said, enough’s enough. It’s not fun losing the way we have. We have a lot of pride in here and it’s time to turn things around now."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.