Sunday, May 14, 2017
MCLELLAN ON EBERLE: "HE DIDN'T QUITE GET IT DONE"
"Coming in next year, it has to be a different mindset,'' said Oilers captain Connor McDavid.
``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, finishing tied for seventh overall in the regular season and ending up one win shy of a final-four appearance in the playoffs.
They will be the favourites to win the Pacific Division next year, with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl down the middle, shutdown defencemen Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson on the blue line and Cam Talbot in net.
The off-season will see general manager Peter Chiarelli address issues to get the Oilers to the next level, starting perhaps with his second line of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Milan Lucic.
The veterans scored a combined 61 goals in the regular season but just two in the playoffs, both by Lucic on the power play.
Eberle was exposed more than a few times in the post-season: playing on the perimeter, coughing up the puck to avoid contact, being the last forward to get back to the defensive zone.
In recent days Eberle has been the pinata for fans and commentators on Edmonton sports radio call in shows. Critics want him traded, even if it means the Oilers eating some of his US$6 million salary, or leaving him exposed to be picked by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Eberle said he has become a better two-way player but it was difficult to not score in the playoffs.
"That's the one that really stings,'' he said. "You take this long to get to the playoffs and (then) you don't perform and play to your standards,'' he said.
Head coach Todd McLellan said don't judge Eberle by the small sample size of a baker's dozen playoff games.
"He's a tremendous player. He scores 20 to 25 goals every season. You can count on it,'' said McLellan.
"He didn't quite get it done (in the playoffs) but he's a very important asset for our team.''