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BLOG: Western Conference is stronger

Oilers well-aware Western Conference foes augmented their lineups during the off-season

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - There's no rest in the West.

Like every off-season, teams all across the National Hockey League sought to augment their roster for the looming 2017-18 campaign and the Western Conference, in particular, saw many teams bolster their lineups.

Video: RAW | Maroon on Camp Day 1

The Dallas Stars signed free agent forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal, adding them to a corps that already features superstars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. They also acquired goaltender Ben Bishop to address their goaltending and re-signed support players Radek Faksa, Jamie Oleksiak and Brett Ritchie.

In the desert, the Arizona Coyotes obtained defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson, forward Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta. The veterans will look to fit in with promising young forwards Anthony Duclair and Max Domi - as well as pipeline players Nick Merkley and Clayton Keller.

The Calgary Flames - Edmonton's long-standing provincial rival - brought aboard rearguard Travis Hamonic and keeper Mike Smith. 

The Oilers are well-aware of the moves teams among the West have made.  

"Guys can't expect it's going to be easy for us," said forward Patrick Maroon following fitness testing on Thursday. "There are teams that got better over the summer. LA, that missed playoffs, they got better this year. Arizona's getting better… Dallas is getting better, they're going to try to make the jump to playoffs."

Maroon noted the club wants to continue their incline from last season but remain modest in their outlook.

"I know playoffs are a long way away for us but it's got to start now; tomorrow," Maroon, who had a career-year registering 27 goals and 15 assists for 42 points in 81 games, said.

The challenge of returning to the playoffs will be difficult but the team learned what it takes to clinch.

"Guys are excited, guys are ready," said the Big Rig. "We had some mistakes last year and some learning curves that we went through, some ups and downs in playoffs and even through the season. We're adjusting to that better than I thought we did."

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