Oilers coach focusing on mental game

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers began training camp with physicals Thursday, but head coach Todd McLellan said it’s the mental part of the game that is going to be key this season. “We are going to have to get mentally stronger,” McLellan told reporters at Rexall Place. “Our point where we succumb to the score or (to) the opposition has to get pushed a lot further, a lot longer. “There’s going to be some tough times. There will be some days where it’s not going real well. And I’ll be really interested to see the group during those moments.”

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers began training camp with physicals Thursday, but head coach Todd McLellan said it’s the mental part of the game that is going to be key this season.

“We are going to have to get mentally stronger,” McLellan told reporters at Rexall Place. “Our point where we succumb to the score or (to) the opposition has to get pushed a lot further, a lot longer.

“There’s going to be some tough times. There will be some days where it’s not going real well. And I’ll be really interested to see the group during those moments.”

McLellan, in his first year behind the Edmonton bench, inherits a team that has not made the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons, consistently finishing so deep in the NHL standings it has landed the top draft pick four of the last six years.

The Oilers’ core group of forwards — Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle — has known nothing but failure at the pro level.

McLellan said the issue is not about failing, but bouncing back from the inevitable failure.

“Mentally strong teams have poor patches during the season. It’s an automatic thing. But they come out of it quick, they come out of it confident. They go back to their foundation and basics.

“The weaker teams tend to stay in it a little bit longer.

“The pushback thing is a big thing for me, the mental strength to keep going. Get through the crap, if you will, when it’s not going well.”

The Oilers won 24 games for 62 points last season, good for 28th place, which then led to a successful lottery leap to draft teen phenom Connor McDavid with the first pick.

Edmonton goaltender Ben Scrivens, who will battle newcomer Cam Talbot for the top job in camp, said the losing can knock players off their game.

“There were tough lessons that I learned last year … trying to do a little bit too much, which comes when you care about the results,” said Scrivens.

“Sometimes it leads you down the wrong path where now you’re worrying (about) things that are out of your control.”

This spring the Oilers overhauled their organization. There’s a new general manager (Peter Chiarelli), new coaching staff, and a new scouting staff along with a number of new players like defencemen Andrej Sekera, Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba.

But McLellan said there’s no magic wand.

“We still have 75 to 80 per cent of the players from last year’s group that were not capable of getting it done. There’s some big changes play-wise and commitment-wise that (have) to happen.”

The X-factor is McDavid and how quickly the young centre with the otherworldly offensive skills can begin bending the league to his will.

Scrivens urged fans to temper expectations.

“He’s obviously going to be a phenomenal player for a long time in this league, but you can’t expect him to do everything overnight,” said Scrivens.

McLellan said McDavid’s outsized fan following is just a fact of life with the new Oilers.

“If you could put some truth serum in (McDavid) he probably just wants to be an 18-year-old and fit in like the rest of them, and doesn’t want to be treated special,” said McLellan.

“But when you have that skill set and you’ve had it that long, that environment is created.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

FILE - Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

The determined look of Terry Fox, as captured by artist Nathan Scott in his statue of the heroic Canadian cancer fundraiser. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)
Clearview Public Schools raise money through Terry Fox school runs

Terry Fox runners have been raising money for 40 years

Deng Mabiour appeared in person in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Wednesday afternoon. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Dr. Walter Reynolds, who was killed at the Village Mall Walk-In Clinic in Red Deer last summer. (Advocate file photo)
Trial of man accused of killing Red Deer doctor going ahead

Deng Mabiour is fit for four-week trial that is set to begin Nov. 22

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 10, 2009, file photo, former financier Bernie Madoff exits federal court in Manhattan, in New York. Madoff, the financier who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, has died in prison, a person familiar with the matter tells The Associated Press(AP Photo/David Karp, File)
Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff dies in prison at 82

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff dies in prison at 82

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
S&P/TSX composite slips despite energy sector jump; U.S. markets mixed

S&P/TSX composite slips despite energy sector jump; U.S. markets mixed

Diploma exams are optional this fall for high school students, the Alberta government said in a statement Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Grades 7-12 students in Calgary shift to online learning for two weeks

Alberta Education approved a request this week from public and Catholic schools… Continue reading

FILE - Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 246 mixed martial arts bout in Las Vegas, in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, file photo. The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021, when Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor fight for the third time. UFC President Dana White announced his plan Wednesday, April 14, 2021, for the promotion's first sellout show in its hometown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/John Locher, File)
UFC plans full Vegas crowd in July at Poirier-McGregor fight

The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile… Continue reading

Juno Awards signage hangs in downtown Saskatoon on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Organizers of the Juno Awards say they've postponed this year's 50th-anniversary celebration until June 6 "out of an abundance of caution in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith
Juno Awards postpone 50th anniversary show date to June 6 amid COVID-19 pandemic

TORONTO — Organizers of the Juno Awards say they’re postponing this year’s… Continue reading

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna rises in the House of Commons following Question Period Monday March 22, 2021 in Ottawa. McKenna is announcing a $1.5-billion program designed to spur green building through retrofits, upgrades and new construction. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal government unveils $1.5-billion plan to boost green building

OTTAWA — Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna has announced a $1.5-billion program designed… Continue reading

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
AstraZeneca very safe, effective, with extremely rare risk of clots: Health Canada

OTTAWA — There is enough evidence to say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may… Continue reading

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department while protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright, late Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Minnesota cop will be charged in shooting of Black motorist

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A prosecutor said Wednesday that he will charge… Continue reading

Most Read