EDMONTON, AB - In a bid to improve his outlook after last campaign concluded, Milan Lucic came into the 2018-19 NHL season more prepared than ever before.
The 30-year-old forward referenced in last season's exit interview the mental roadblock he hit in the second half of the season during a slump that included only one goal in 46 games. He put in the work this past off-season by bumping up his fitness levels and working with skill coaches to fine tune the end product.
Lucic scored in the opening game this season in Cologne against the New Jersey Devils as part of the NHL Global Series, but much of his previous frustrations lingered.
He followed up a disappointing 2018 calendar year with three goals in his first seven games in January, wrapping up the season on 20 points (6G, 14A) in 79 games played.
Video: RAW | Lucic 04.07.19
"It's almost like I put the weight of the world on my own shoulders, and it's almost like the quicksand effect - the harder you try, the more you sink in," Lucic said on Sunday in his exit interview in the Oilers Hall of Fame room.
"I did everything I could to put myself in the best possible physical shape coming in working with skill guys in the summer and all that type of stuff. I think I was seventh in the fitness testing in all of camp this year, so it wasn't my fitness and it wasn't my skating, I think it's just a mental thing."
For the big man, it begins within. The push for greater contributions begins by finding the mindset and ability that helped make him one of the League's most dominant bodies up front in years past before arriving in Edmonton.
Lucic admits he won't be a 100-point scorer in the NHL, but there's no harm in acting like one.
"It's finding that confidence again and the self-belief," he said. "If you ask the top guys and all the 100-point guys this year, not that I'm going to be a 100-point guy, but you ask those guys who believes in them more than they believe in themselves and they'd all tell you there's nobody.
"I think I have to find that again, find the joy in that again, and I know physically I still have a lot to give. It's just about finding those bounces, creating those bounces, relaxing, and baring down in those areas where I've shown over the years that I can finish. It's up to me to find that again."
The product of Vancouver, B.C. reached out last year to a bounce-back player in Los Angeles Kings' winger Dustin Brown, who turned the page on a 36-point campaign in 2016-17 by following it up with 61 and 51 points respectively in the last two seasons. It's a connection Lucic is keen to explore even further in the coming months in search of a personal improvement of his own.
"I talked to him last summer a little bit, and definitely would talk to him a little bit more in depth this year and see what he did to bounce back," Lucic said. "You saw what a change did for him when it went from [head coach Darryl Sutter to John Stevens, then to Willy Desjardins]. A little, but big change worked out in his favour big time. Whoever the new guy coming in here might be, it might have the same effect.