McDavid says Oilers have a ‘long way to go’ entering the season

EDMONTON — Connor McDavid said there is a lot of work ahead for the Edmonton Oilers even after they reached the Western Conference Final last season.

McDavid and the Oilers enter this season in a similar position to 2017-18, when they were coming off making it to Game 7 of the 2017 Western Conference Second Round against the Anaheim Ducks but failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the next two seasons .

“We really only won one more game than we did in 2017,” the Edmonton captain said Monday following an informal scrimmage. “It feels like we were closer last year than the previous year, but it was one win. We still have a long way to go and we know that. It takes everybody and it takes all season long. I’m just looking forward to getting going, and being back here to see everybody.”

The Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames in the first two rounds of the playoffs before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche. It was the first time Edmonton made it to the conference final since losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

“You look at a little bit of what Colorado had, they had a lot of injuries, they had a lot of things go against them and they just took everything in stride and ultimately were the last ones standing,” McDavid said. “It takes everybody, it takes a whole organization and it’s good to get everybody under one roof here.”

In 2016-17, the center’s second season in the NHL, the Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. They next reached the postseason in 2020 but lost their opening series to the Chicago Blackhawks, then were swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round in 2021.

“There are lots of expectations this year, both outside and in the locker room,” McDavid said. “Last year was a step forward, but we’re going to come in here and start all over again and build on what we accomplished last year. Nothing is for free in this league, we certainly know that and we’re just excited to get things going.”

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McDavid said the Oilers’ struggles after the 2017 playoffs are “a big lesson, it’s something that we can learn from. … You can’t take anything for granted in this league.”

McDavid led the League with an NHL career-high 123 points (44 goals, 79 assists) in 80 games last season and had 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists) in 16 playoff games. The Oilers return a core that also includes forwards Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane and Zach Hymanand defenseman Darnell Nurse. McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Nurse were also on the 2016-17 team.

Edmonton also has a new goalie, having signed Jack Campbell to a five-year $25 million contract ($5 million average annual value) on July 13. He’s expected to be their No. 1.

“I think it’s turning more into a culture,” McDavid said. “Every season, a team seems to catch fire and that’s their year and it kind of fizzles out. I think we’re building a culture here in Edmonton and it translates from year to year. It’s the same core guys every year that are setting the tempo and pace and kind of leading the way. I think that’s kind of the difference [from 2017].”

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