‘We want to win here:’ Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid make clear their desire to win Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers
By Zach Laing22 days ago
Make no mistake about it: Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid want to lift the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers.
And for those ever thinking otherwise, we can lay those thoughts to rest because the pair made it clear on Tuesday they have no intention of going anywhere else.
“There’s expectations, but I think most of the expectations come from within ourselves, from within our room,” said Draisaitl on Tuesday afternoon sitting beside McDavid in a season-ending press conference.” We want to win here. There’s nowhere else that we want to win.
“Expectations are there. You obviously have to deal with them in your own way at times, but we’re all here to win and we all want the same thing. Have a good summer, come back, and go back at it again.”
And in the eyes of McDavid, the expectations are already set for next season.
“It’s Stanley Cup or bust for this group. With where everyone is at in their career, that’s the expectation.”
It’s safe to say that another exit this spring early of a trip to the Stanley Cup finals has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. On Sunday, the team dropped game six of their series against the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 after having lost game five two days prior.
While it’s only been two days since the Oilers’ hope at a Stanley Cup this year was squashed, there’s already a mindset of what needs to change ahead of next year.
“Sometimes, as a team, we find a way to lose games and beat ourselves more so than another team is beating us,” said Draisaitl. “I think we have to find a way to learn how to not beat ourselves.”
The analysis is sound.
In every game against Vegas in the second round, the Oilers took a 1-0 lead scoring the first goal of the game and in four held the lead after the first period. In the regular season, the Oilers went a staggering 25-4-3 when leading after the first period. Edmonton went 3-0 against LA when leading after one, but just 2-2 against Vegas.
In the regular season, they went 31-8-4 when scoring first winning 72 percent of their games. In the playoffs, they went 5-4 when scoring first winning 55 percent of their games.
They beat themselves.
“At times, I feel like we can be better as a team not winning — it sounds weird, we have to win the games, but at times, you just not lose. We got to find a way where you win 1-0, 2-1, you just hold onto a game and win it,” said defenceman Mattias Ekholm, who added during his press conference there was no team he’d rather have been traded to. “In this series, I felt like the games we won we had to score four or five. We did, and we held them off.
“Coming back to Nashville, there it was ‘if we get two or three chances to score, we got to capitalize.’ Other than that, just play good defence and try keep them on the outside and not have them score.”
But Ekholm knows that the Oilers have something that other teams just don’t have.
“If you compare the two, there are a lot of differences,” he pondered thinking back to his time in the league ahead of his trade. “In Nashville, we had a top-four defence the team was built around. Here it’s the best two players in the world you build it around.
“What this team has, you can’t just go out in find it. A good structure defensively, that’s something you can work on. But finding the top two players, you don’t just go out and find them. We have them. There’s a great opportunity with this team.”
While it’s easy to sit here and think of this Oilers season being an abject failure given their inability to make it back to the Western Conference Finals, the truth of the matter is that this team had a great season.
They won 50 games and posted 109 standings points for just the fourth time in the franchise’s 43-years. Their .665 points percentage is fifth best in franchise history. They outscored their opposition 325-260 with their +65 goal differential being tied for third-best in the NHL.
In one sense of the term, none of this all matters because it was all for naught, but the truth is that the team that accomplished all this will largely run it back next season.
“We had a really good team this year, especially in the second half. We finished the year off with 14 wins out of 15,” said forward Zach Hyman, who remained hum when asked about any injuries that troubled him in the playoffs. “We have a really good team and we’re returning the majority of our core. There’s an opportunity to win.
“It didn’t matter if we lost in the third round or the finals, it would be the same feeling. With this team, either we’re going to win or we’re going to feel like this.”
Now, the Oilers spend the next five months waiting for puck drop in game one of the regular season as they look to achieve what has ailed them for so long: a Stanley Cup title.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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