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Draisaitl: Learn How Not to Lose the Game

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
9 months ago
Leon Draisaitl addressed the media yesterday; a few weeks shy of his 10th NHL training camp. He was relaxed and cracked a few jokes, but also was very direct in what the Oilers’ approach and mindset will be this season. He spoke eloquently about the one area they need to improve.
“Sometimes it’s just learning how not to lose the game instead or learning how to win it,” said Draisaitl. “I think we’re the best team in the league at really, clearly winning a game, but I think we’re not so great at finding ways not to lose games. I think it’s a little bit of maturity, sometimes you have to go through these pains and tough times to learn from it and move on.”
The second-round loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last May is in his rearview mirror, but the sting of the loss created a learning opportunity for Draisaitl and the group. When asked about his “Stanley Cup or bust next year” quote after the Vegas loss last year he cracked a joke, and then talked about the goals of his team.
“It’s an interesting quote. Next question (laughs),” said Draisaitl. “Obviously we want to win a Stanley Cup here, there is no doubt about that. I think we have to be careful in putting too much pressure on ourselves in that way, there are 31 other teams who are trying to do what we’re doing. So, there are going to be some ups and downs, but I think we have the group in here to do it. We have the right mindset. We’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years. Get off to a good start is the most important thing.”
Life should be a constant learning experience, and in pro sports, many of the learning lessons include heartache. The Oilers were good enough to win last year, but Vegas played with more poise. I don’t think Vegas outplayed the Oilers per se, moreso they didn’t beat themselves.
“I didn’t think we played our best hockey when it mattered most. Not consistently enough at least,” said Draisaitl referring to the Vegas loss. “We had some games where we dominated, a few where they were better than us, and in the last two games they outplayed us a bit in little areas. It is little things, like penalties, and sticking to the system at key times.”
The Oilers have a lot of self-belief, but actions often speak louder than words. The fact the entire team is in Edmonton skating together two weeks before training camp illustrates how hungry and excited they are for the season. It won’t guarantee success, but I sense a deeper commitment to winning with this group. Winning a Stanley Cup is incredibly difficult. Many very good teams were unable to do it, and there is no guarantee the Oilers will, but they want to do everything they can to at least put themselves in the best position to win.
“We’re determined, you can see in the fact that everyone is here working hard and trying to get things going early,” Draisaitl said. “Obviously there is one goal here and whether it pans out this way we’ll see, but one thing is guaranteed — that we’re going to do everything in our power to achieve that goal and get to that point. We’re excited for the year; we’re excited for the new guys coming in. It should be a good year.”
Ultimately the Oilers will be judged by their playoff success, but how they play in the regular season matters, at least in my eyes. They can use the regular season to improve and learn, as Draisaitl said, how not to lose games. Draisaitl made sure to mention how important he believes the regular season is.
“It’s a grind. It is long, there’s a lot of games,” he said. “You build your game in segments and need to get off to a good start. We can talk about playoffs all we want, but if we’re not in it to have a chance, then there is no reason to talk about it. So, we have to make sure we are there first.”
You can’t magically jump to the top of the mountain. The first step is part of the process, and October 11th will be their first of what they hope is a 100+ step journey this season.

HERE AND THERE…

Draisaitl had a few funny responses to questions…
Reid Wilkins asked him if he attended any good sporting events.
“I went to a tennis match which was fun, everyone saw we were there eating chips (laughs). It was a good summer.
Last summer, he told Connor McDavid he could score 60 goals. And he did. I asked Draisaitl if McDavid told him he could score 60 this year?
“He hasn’t yet. Ask him, see what he says,” smiled Draisaitl.
And since many of us are engrossed in it, I asked him if he plays Fantasy Football.
“I am now. My first year.”
What is your strategy?
“I don’t know. No idea. I have Soupy on my team. We are doing it together.”

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