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McDavid frustrated, 'sick of losing' with Oilers

Center wants teammates to buy in, work toward common goal of making playoffs

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

CHICAGO -- The feeling turns the stomach of Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid.

"You've just got to be sick of losing," he said at the NHL Player Media Tour on Thursday.

Two seasons ago, the losing seemed to be cured in Edmonton.


[RELATED: Oilers season previewMcDavid aims to score more with Oilers]


McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) and the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player, and the Oilers made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 11 years.

They came within one win of the Western Conference Final, taking the Anaheim Ducks to seven games in the second round.

Then came last season.

Though McDavid won the Art Ross for the second straight year, this time with 108 points (41 goals, 67 assists), the Oilers missed the playoffs. They finished 17 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card in the West.

"You kind of experience both ends of the spectrum, where we had such a good season and last year we weren't even close," McDavid said. "So definitely a lot more fun to be winning games and to experience that culture. I think everyone kind of understands where we went wrong last year, and I think at some point it just becomes a competitive thing."

Coming off their deep playoff run, the Oilers were complacent. They went 1-4-0 in their first five games. By Nov. 21, following an 8-3 loss at the St. Louis Blues, they were 7-12-2.

"We had such a bad start," McDavid said. "We put ourselves behind the eight ball."

Video: Connor McDavid wants to score more goals

The Oilers went 10-5-0 in their next 15 games. When they left for Christmas break, they were still in the playoff race. But after they returned, they went 1-6-1 in their next eight.

"All of a sudden, you're out of it again," McDavid said. "And then we had a couple injuries and whatnot. It's tough to battle back. Obviously there is a bit of a snowball effect. Especially as you get later and later and your time starts going against you, it can get frustrating."

The Oilers shook up coach Todd McLellan's staff, replacing assistants Jim Johnson, Jay Woodcroft and Ian Herbers with Glen Gulutzan, Trent Yawney and Manny Viveiros.

But they made few roster changes in the offseason, signing center Kyle Brodziak, forward Tobias Rieder, goaltender Mikko Koskinen and defenseman Kevin Gravel.

Defenseman Andrej Sekera, who missed 46 games last season because of a torn knee ligament, is out indefinitely because of a torn Achilles tendon.

Unless general manager Peter Chiarelli makes a major move, the Oilers must get more out of the same players. Forward Milan Lucic went from 23 goals in 2016-17 to 10 last season; he must be better. Goaltender Cam Talbot went from a .919 save percentage to a .908; he must be better. And so on.

McDavid made headlines by saying he wants to score more. But he can't do it alone, and goals aren't the goal, anyway.

"Obviously I get paid to score and create chances, and that's what I have to do," McDavid said. "But just at the same time, I have to be able to be responsible defensively, good on face-offs, all the little things that coaches love and that win games. I think that's the main thing. You want to win hockey games, and it doesn't really matter how you do it."

Video: EDM@VAN: McDavid fends off defense for tough goal

How can the Oilers win more with the talent they have?

"I think you've just got to have everyone buy in, working towards a common goal," McDavid said. "Doesn't matter who gets the credit. Really doesn't. Just got to win games. You've just got to find ways to win games.

"And I think you look at any team … I mean, look at Washington. [The Capitals] win the Cup. They have so much talent, and they just looked like they had so much fun together, and they were just riding the wave, and everyone was going, and everyone was having a good time. I think that's the key to success, is just have everyone moving in one direction and no one cares about anything else."

McDavid said he can see his teammates are sick of losing too.

"I've been in Edmonton about a week, and you can really feel, just in and around the room, it's just a different mindset," McDavid said. "It's a different intensity, and guys are ready to go."

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