“I think we’re too good of a team where we’re not at least competing in the playoffs or not in the race,” Draisaitl said Thursday during the NHL European Player Media Tour.
“And even if we are, that’s probably not good enough. We want to make the playoffs and I think we have the team to do it. Now it’s up to the players to show it.”
After reaching Game 7 of the 2017 Western Conference Second Round, the Oilers were a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup last fall. Things just didn’t click and Edmonton missed the playoffs, finishing with a 36-40-6 record and only 78 points.
Draisaitl’s comments match the message from team captain Connor McDavid this summer. Both players believe last season was a fluke and not a true reflection of the team.
“The team we were last year wasn’t up to our standards, and it’s important we get back to our level,” McDavid said earlier this month. “It’s a good learning experience, but one you never want to go through again. We talked about it so much now that it doesn’t really need to be talked about again.”
The Oilers didn’t make many major roster moves this summer, but last week they were hit with some bad news after defenceman Andrej Sekera suffered an Achilles injury while training. Sekera is out indefinitely but it will mark the second consecutive season he’ll miss significant time with an injury.
His absence will test the Oilers’ depth on defence before the season even starts, but Draisaitl says his teammate’s health is more important than worrying about who will take his place.
“It’s obviously disappointing for the team, but even more so, I’m disappointed for him,” Draisaitl said. “You really feel bad for the guy. He’s coming off an injury and he trained so hard all summer to come back, to get back to the form he had, the type of player he was, the shape he was in. And now he’s injured again and he’s going to be out for a while. We’re going to miss him a lot.”
Last season marked Draisaitl’s first of an eight-year, $68 million contract. While the team lost a lot, he still had a solid offensive campaign, registering 25 goals and 70 points in 78 games. It was the second straight season Draisaitl hit the 70 point mark.
But because of the team’s struggles, some wondered if the new contract was putting pressure on him. However, Draisaitl insists that wasn’t the case.
“Obviously, there’s always pressure that comes with a deal like that, especially with an eight-year deal,” Draisaitl said. “But I understood it. It didn’t really put any extra pressure on me.”
Draisaitl will be an important part of any success the Oilers have. He knows this and is ready to lead the team, alongside McDavid, back to the post-season.
“We, as players, need to take ownership and be the best team we can be,” Draisaitl said. “I think that last year we weren’t the team that we are, or that we want to be. Seasons like that happen, but we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”