EDMONTON, AB - By Adam Larsson's standards, the 2018-19 NHL season was a down year.
In fairness, the Swedish d-man would always be the first to make it known.
Oilers Main Camp signalled new beginnings for the 26-year-old, who's coming into the new season physically refreshed, stronger, and with the mental weight of an underachieving season of 20 points (3G, 17A) and a -28 plus/minus rating in 82 games off his shoulders.
Video: RAW | Adam Larsson 09.14.19
"I had a lot of things to work on, but it more comes down to mentally coming back and being stronger," Larsson said. "You're going to face adversity throughout the 82-game schedule. You go through injuries, you go through ups and downs, and I'm going into my ninth year now. I know how to deal with it, but it was just tougher last year. You have to get out of those downs, so I feel ready now."
Larsson went about trimming the fat from last season, quite literally, by trimming the fat.
"I lost almost 10 pounds, so I got a little fat off my belly," he laughed. "That was a start. But I didn't change much. That's when you start questioning yourself too, and that's not who I am."
The Skellefteå, Sweden product felt he was overthinking the game too much on the ice in '18-19, and trying to overcompensate by doing more usually has the reverse result.
"When things start to go sideways for you, you kind of tend to overthink stuff and overthink the game," he said. "As simple as it sounds, if you don't think as much, that's usually a sign that you're playing good. It's just part of the game. It's something that you learn as a young guy, as an old guy, and you're going to face it at some point during your career. I did last year, and hopefully I never see that again."
Larsson capped off his season with a strong showing in Slovakia during the IIHF World Hockey Championship by playing big minutes for his country in big games, posting four points in eight contests.
Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 09.14.19
Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett combed through every bit of game tape from last season he had on the Swede upon arrival in Edmonton, including from the World Championship, and wants to see Larsson channel more of the international on-ice version of himself for his club this upcoming campaign.
"I've watched him play in Edmonton, and I've watched him play in the World Championship. I told him I want the World Championship guy because he looked like he was free, easy, and moving the puck," Tippett said. "It's a bigger rink and he's got more time and everything, but it was the first time he looked like he had a smile on his face.
"It was a tough year and he wanted to move on, I know he was playing with Ekman-Larsson there for most of the tournament and they were a good pair, but he looked like he was having fun."
It's so far, so good for Tippett in the early days of Main Camp, in addition to a hope of squeezing more offence out of the blueliner this season to supplement an ability to operate as a shutdown defender.
"I think you see that now," Tippett said. "He's smiling, he's enjoying it, he's trying to dangle guys, and he knows what kind of a player he is, but we're trying to push him into being a good two-way player and not just a stay-at-home defender all the time."
Larsson's new mindset looks set to be put to the test alongside a new defensive partner in Darnell Nurse over his regular partner Oscar Klefbom this season, with the pair poised to operate as a shutdown unit after both were able to shed significant weight in the summer.
"Doc is probably a little bit more physical, that's probably the biggest difference, but I thought Doc took a lot of steps last year and had a tremendous year personally," he said.
"I'm glad to have him on my side and I have to try and help him out as much as I can this year."