EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The Edmonton Oilers cleaned out their lockers Friday after their turnaround season, knowing that the newfound success changes everything.
“Coming in next year, it has to be a different mindset,” captain Connor McDavid said. “We’re not going to surprise any teams anymore. Teams know we’re a good hockey team and they’ll have to be ready to play.”
Forward Patrick Maroon was more succinct.
“The team is for real now,” he said. “Everyone knows the Edmonton Oilers are no joke anymore.”
After 10 consecutive seasons of unrelenting mediocrity, and no playoff appearances, the Oilers established themselves this season as one of the NHL’s top-tier franchises, tying for seventh overall in the regular season and taking the Anaheim Ducks to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals.
They will be the favorites to win the Pacific Division next year, with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl down the middle, shutdown defensemen Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson on the blue line and Cam Talbot in net.
McDavid, whose rookie year was cut short by a broken clavicle, had a breakout season. He won the points title with 100 points, scoring 30 goals, and is the front-runner for the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP.