McDavid says wait for Oilers is ‘it’s cut or bust for this group’

EDMONTON– The Edmonton Oilers set the bar high this season, and anything short of winning the Stanley Cup was going to be considered a disappointment.

“It’s Cut or Fail for this group”, captain Connor McDavid said Tuesday. “Just where everyone is at with their careers is the expectation.”

The Oilers fell short of expectations, losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference second round in six games in the best-of-7 series, and were eliminated 5-2 at Rogers Place on Sunday. .

“We’re all here to win and when you don’t it’s disappointing,” said the striker Leon Draisaitl, who could join Germany at the 2023 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Finland and Latvia. “We’ll talk about it here in our group and we have to use that in a positive way and come back next season, make the changes we need to make, and it’s cut or bust.”

The Oilers won 50 regular season games (50-23-9) for the first time since 1986-87, finished second in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Golden Knights (51-22-9). They beat the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the first round.

McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy as the fifth-time NHL scoring champion (153 points) and the Rocket Richard Trophy for most first-time goals (64) and led the league in assists ( 89). Draisaitl hit the 50-goal mark for the third time (52) and had 128 points (76 assists).

All of those accomplishments, however, mean very little to the Oilers, who were knocked out a round earlier than last season. A year ago, they advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2006, when they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

“I think it’s progress, maybe it doesn’t look like it today, but I think it’s progress,” McDavid said. “I think we’re a better team than we were last year. We’ve got pretty much everyone coming back, and that’s just more experience, and that’s all that’s positive.”

At the Golden Knights, the Oilers encountered a more experienced playoff team, which advanced to the third round for the fourth time in their six-year history. Vegas will face the Dallas Stars in the Conference Finals, with Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“I think when two great teams go against each other, it’s just the little things,” McDavid said. “I think we made too many little mistakes here and there that they capitalized on. The margins of error when you play against a really good team in the playoffs are really small, and we made too many mistakes, more mistakes than them.”

Despite being eliminated, optimism is high Edmonton will continue to be Stanley Cup contenders for the foreseeable future. The core team is expected to remain intact, with McDavid signed for the next three seasons and Draisaitl for two.

“Yeah, that’s definitely how I feel,” McDavid said. “I think if you look at the band here, everybody’s committed for the next few years, nobody’s getting old, everybody’s at the peak of their careers. I think we have the opportunity to knock on the door as much as we Ultimately, it will be up to us to put everything in place.

With McDavid and Draisaitl, the forwards Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto And Warren Foegele are signed for next season. Derek Ryan, Matthias Janmark, Devin Shore And Nick Bjugstad will all become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Defenders Nurse Darnell, Matthias Ekholm, Cody This, Brett’s EarAnd Vincent Desharnais are also all signed, while Evan Bouchard will be a restricted free agent. Goalkeepers Jack Campbell And Stuart Skinner are also under contract for next season.

“I think we have the right pieces in place to do it, but we can sit here and talk all we want, but at the end of the day, we have to go out there and do it,” Draisaitl said. “We couldn’t do that this year and [we’ll] just use that as fuel and positivity for next season, and have an even better summer than last season, and come back stronger and a better player.”

It will be a reflective offseason for the Oilers, but the early exit will also provide motivation for the 2023-24 season.

“I think that kind of empty feeling that’s left with you, I think that’s great fuel, you don’t want to have that feeling anymore,” McDavid said. “I think for us it’s understanding how far he is from being back in the same position. We all have to go home and train all summer and come back and go through camp. practice and play another 82 regular season games just to get back to the same spot.

“Just to understand where you are and you’re playing in the series, you have to do everything you can to keep it going or to win a game. It’s a lot of work that goes into it just to get into that position. , and here we meet a year apart.”

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