If fans of the Edmonton Oilers had any reservations about how the team is feeling on their recent run of strong performances and heading into the final nine games of the regular season, Leon Draisaitl‘s comments should put to rest any concerns. The Oilers are feeling good about how they’re playing right now, to the point Draisaitl said, “I wouldn’t want to play us in the first round or in the playoffs in general.”
Draisaitl’s words shouldn’t be taken as arrogant or overconfident, even if the team hasn’t seen a lot of playoff success while he’s been part of the roster. This is simply a player who feels like everything is coming together at the right time for his team and they feel good about their chances, knowing they can play with anyone. He’s likely speaking for the rest of the roster too, and that can only be seen as a positive.
The Oilers aren’t technically even guaranteed a spot in the playoffs or, should they make it, know who their opponent will be. Apparently, he’s not worried.
The Oilers Can Play With Anyone
The Oilers weren’t able to pull out a win against the NHL’s best team, but they were able to manage a point when a point was important. It showed that not only can the Oilers hang (they’ve done so in two recent games against the Avalanche) but they can earn points in multiple ways. A team that is known for their offense, the Oilers effectively shut down one of the few teams better than they are at scoring. Their goalie withstood a barrage of chances and the rest of the team helped out.
So too, the Oilers have beaten a number of the Eastern Conference’s top franchises and the organization is feeling like they aren’t even playing their best brand of hockey. If the Oilers can put it all together, they’ll be a tough out for any NHL club. If it winds up the Oilers play the Los Angeles Kings — a team who just leaned their top defenseman in Drew Doughty is done for the season — the Oilers’ chances are good. Draisaitl is simply stating out loud how the team feels.
It’s Good That the Oilers Feel Good
While there’s some risk in feeling overconfident in their game, it’s better that the Oilers feel their play is clicking than to feel it isn’t. Knowing how important this final stretch run is to their overall regular-season success and that winning while going into the playoffs matters, that Draisaitl feels comfortable enough to say the Oilers are a solid team and send a not-so-subtle message to everyone else speaks volumes.
Essentially, he’s saying, ‘We’re not a one-dimensional team and don’t overlook us or we’ll make you pay.’
Draisaitl Is Showing His Leadership
Just the amount of swagger it takes to put the league on notice takes leadership. You don’t put that out there if you’re not prepared to back it up. He knows he’ll have to and that takes stepping up his game (even more than he already has in a Hart Trophy-caliber season) and dragging his guys into the fight.
Good leaders put their money where their mouth is. Draisaitl doesn’t make these comments if he’s not confident in what his team can do, and that includes the blue line and the goaltending, which at times throughout the season has been a question.
It’s now time to follow through. That starts with a big win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.