EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers set a standard this season, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006 and advancing to the Western Conference Second Round.
Despite the disappointment of a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 on Wednesday, there was a sense of accomplishment and anticipation of more to come in 2017-18 as the Oilers cleaned out their lockers and had exit meetings with coach Todd McLellan and his staff Friday.
"It was fun, and I'm definitely proud to be a part of this group," captain Connor McDavid said. "I think that's going to be a theme, that a lot of players have said, it's fun to be a part of this, fun to see the city get behind us the way they did. After 10 years of being a bad hockey team and still having the fan base that we still do, I think all the players really appreciate that. It was a great year."
Edmonton went from 14th in the Western Conference last season, 17 points out of the playoffs, to second in the Pacific Division with home-ice advantage in the first round. Edmonton improved by 33 points and defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games before losing to Anaheim.
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm5: McDavid bats in PPG out of mid-air
"We've turned the page," McLellan said. "Just like in the playoffs, we talked about parking games, we have to park this year now and we're already beginning to prepare for next year now, in my opinion. You recover physically, mentally, you get some rest, you enjoy your family time, and then you begin to physically prepare, but you also have to mentally prepare for next year.
"We had a good run this year, but this should become what the standard is, not an exceptional year, and that's our goal, is to make this type of year the standard and then push it from there."
McDavid, a 20-year-old center who had 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) to win the NHL scoring title, was one of several Oilers to have a breakout season.
Center Leon Draisaitl, 21, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) in the regular season and led the Oilers with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 playoff games. Forward Patrick Maroon, 29, had his best NHL season with 42 points (27 goals, 15 assists), playing a large portion of it on the No. 1 line with McDavid.
Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Talbot denies Montour, covers rebound
Goaltender Cam Talbot, 29, played an NHL-high 73 games, went 42-22-8 to break Grant Fuhr's record for wins by an Edmonton goalie (40 in 1987-88), and had a 2.39 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
"We're still a developing, growing team," McLellan said. "We'll have good nights next year, we'll have some bad nights next year, and we'll continue that growth process. The difference will be expectations, and it will come from our fan base, it'll come through the media, it'll come from us as a staff and an organization, and most importantly, it'll come from the players. But there still is a development phase for everybody as they enter the League, and we have to understand that."
The core is expected to remain intact for next season, and with their success this season, the Oilers hope Edmonton becomes a desirable destination for players.
"I think with this rink (Rogers Place) and this team, players definitely want to be a part of this team," said forward Milan Lucic, who signed a seven-year contract July 1 as an unrestriced free agent. "There is a lot of promise heading into the future and there is lot to look forward heading into next year."