Chiarelli bullish on Oilers after leap up standings

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli talks about the order of business for the club in the offseason, starting with signing Connor McDavid on July 1st, then doing the same with Leon Draisaitl.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli says his team exceeded expectations this year, and the plan is to not deliver another electro-shock to the roster like last year’s Taylor Hall trade.

"I don’t want to delve too much into moving the team’s roster around just because we’ve had some success and you’d like to see it evolve a little bit," Chiarelli told reporters Tuesday at a season wrap-up news conference.

"We made a lot of strides this year.

"We had significant improvement in pretty much everything."

Chiarelli took a lot of criticism from fans when he traded Hall, the team’s top offensive threat next to Connor McDavid, to New Jersey for defenceman Adam Larsson.

Larsson, though, helped stabilize a perennially poor Oiler blue line corps, giving skilled forwards like McDavid more time and space.

Chiarelli said his goal heading into last season was for the Oilers, who had missed the playoffs for 10 years, to play meaningful games in March and have a shot at the NHL playoffs.

Instead the Oilers racked up 103 points, just missed the Pacific Division title, beat the San Jose Sharks in the first playoff round and took the Anaheim Ducks to seven games before bowing out.

McDavid led the league in scoring with 30 goals and 100 points and Leon Draisaitl was eighth (77 points). Goalie Cam Talbot put himself in the league’s elite, winning 42 games in the regular season and stealing a couple of games for the Oilers in the playoffs.

But Chiarelli said "there’s still a fair bit of work to be done."

The Oilers finished last in the regular season on winning faceoffs, at 47 per cent.

"That (faceoff percentage) will improve just with the guys getting stronger. That will improve with the guys working on it because we were pretty specific about it in the (player) exit meetings," he said.

There’s the issue of $6-million forward Jordan Eberle.

Eberle scored 20 goals in the regular season but disappeared in the playoffs. He had zero goals and was panned by fans and critics for too often dumping the puck, ducking checks and generally avoiding the elevated level of commitment needed in the post-season.

Chiarelli echoed comments made last week by Oilers coach Todd McLellan, urging critics to not judge Eberle, a proven goal-scorer, by the small sample size of 13 playoff games.

"He’s a very skilled player," said Chiarelli.

"We talked (with him) about his approach mentally as to scoring, and what’s his routine, and maybe there are some things we can look at."

The Oilers defence took a major leap forward with Larsson and Oscar Klefbom leading the way, backed by veterans Kris Russell and Andrej Sekera, and youngsters Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning.

"I’m pretty happy with the D," said Chiarelli.

"Do we have a championship D-corps? I’m not sure yet. There’s still an element of growth (that needs to happen)."

He said they still don’t have that prototypical power play defender, one who can move the puck and deliver a blistering shot from the point.

Notes: Sekera was sidelined during the Anaheim series after when he was rubbed into the boards by Ryan Getzlaf. Chiarelli announced Sekera suffered a torn ACL, will have surgery this week, and is out six to nine months.

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