FEATURE: Oilers core preaching playoffs as only goal
"I think the time is now for us to get on that other side of the road and be a team that competes every year for the Stanley Cup and gets into the playoffs," forward Zack Kassian said
EDMONTON, AB - After finishing the last on-ice session of Training Camp on Tuesday, Oilers players are ready for the long grind.
A new management and coaching staff set the agenda for a formative Camp, with plenty of new teammates and ideas helping change the mould and present a different-looking Oilers team that's set to begin its regular season against the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow at Rogers Place.
"It's a lot of new voices, new faces, and so far it's been a hard camp," defenceman Adam Larsson said. "Good pace and a pot of positive energy in here, so we have to carry that over to games and it starts tomorrow."
For players like Larsson, the new campaign serves as a clean slate and an opportunity to rectify past shortcomings in season's past. But that challenge will stretch far into the full 82-game slate.
"Not just tomorrow. We're talking the whole year here," Larsson said. "It's a new year for everyone, and it starts tomorrow and I think the group is really excited. It's been a long wait for the first game, so we're pumped up for tomorrow."
Defenceman Oscar Klefbom may be starting his first season in three without his regular partner in Larsson beside him, but the blueline pivot doesn't plan to change his routine prior to the start of his seventh in Oilers colours.
"It's always the same every year," Klefbom said. "You've been waiting for this and it's been a long off-season, and hopefully it's the last one that was really long, so I'm really pumped about playing the first game tomorrow and especially starting off here in Rogers Place. It's a really good feeling."
Klefbom is one of the few Oilers remaining on the roster who felt the excitement of the Oilers last trip to the postseason in '16-17, with the core expected to set the example for a number of new arrivals who are either dipping their toes into a new North American hockey experience or preparing for a new NHL campaign with a new club.
"A big part is from the core of the group for sure. We're all going to have bad nights, but hopefully it's few of them. It will all come from the group. I think we have a really good mix of guys, I think we have a really good fit for everybody, so it's going to be interesting to see. It's the first game tomorrow, but I have a really good feeling. I think lots of players are going to have a good season."
Those core members, including Zack Kassian who's coming off a career-high 15 goals last season, see a playoff berth as the only deliverable that will deem the upcoming season a success for a team feeling the itch of taking a collective step forward.
"I think if someone's telling us differently in here, they should leave the room. We're all sick of losing here," Kassian said. "The guys that have been here for a little bit, we all got a taste of what it was like in the playoffs. I think the time is now for us to get on that other side of the road and be a team that competes every year for the Stanley Cup and gets into the playoffs.
"We're not expecting anything less than that this year and we're excited, but at the same time there's a pressure on us to get on this other side of the road here and put this losing behind us."
No matter the expectations, the excitement of another home opener and another NHL season is palpable.
"It's fun," Kassian said. "You start to get the itch fairly early in the summer if you don't make playoffs. You train hard all summer, you prepare yourself for an 82-game season, but obviously we know the opening night there's a little bit more emotion.
"The fans are right into it, there's a lot of energy in the building, and it's important to get off to a good start. I'm really looking forward to it and I know everyone is."