Edmonton

Injuries, inconsistency aside, Hitchcock finds Edmonton 'invigorating'

As the 2018-19 NHL season wraps up, Oilers players and coach Ken Hitchcock are focused on the future. Hitchcock says this is was not a waste of a season.

In interviews Sunday, Oilers coach and players sum up the 2018-19 season

Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock knows the team has some work ahead of them but says he's "invigorated" and ready for the challenge. (Patrick Henri/CBC)

As the Edmonton Oilers wrap up their latest season they are focused on the future.

Despite missing the playoffs the last two seasons, head coach Ken Hitchcock said Sunday he believes the team learned a lot this year.

Hitchcock, who replaced Todd McLellan in November, said he refuses to call this season a waste but he's also focused on "stopping the bleed."

"That comes with maturity. That comes with experience," Hitchcock said. "I look at two or three things where having a game plan is one thing to stop it, whether its during the actual game or to stop it the next game or two games later."

He said that maturity is the key to get the team into the playoffs.

"There was a few times this year that we took a little bit longer to recover," Hitchcock said.

Injuries plagued the team this year. Hitchcock mentioned a game against Colorado in December that saw the team lose two defencemen while already working with a depleted roster.

He also said the team has to work at being more adaptable. He believes the Oilers have a good team with good staff, and he's invigorated heading into the off-season.

"I know we're not far away. I know it feels like we're a little ways away but I feel like we're not far away. We need to add. We need to help the players that are here."

The team has a lot to build around in the off season, Hitchcock said.

Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also feels like the team has some key pieces but acknowledges it's been a frustrating eight years for him. Since he was drafted by the Oilers in the first-round of the 2011 draft, the team has only made the playoffs once.

Oilers Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins says after only one playoff appearance during eight seasons with the team it's frustrating but he's confident they have some strong players to build around. (Patrick Henri/CBC)

"I'm getting tired of it for sure. I want to win and I want to be in the playoffs," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We've got to do what we can this summer to come prepared next year."

Meanwhile, captain Connor McDavid said things are looking "positive" after he left the final game of the season with an injury to his leg. He also described this season as frustrating. 

Captain Connor McDavid says he's sticking with team and he believes in their future. (Patrick Henri/CBC)

"I'd be a complete loser if I wasn't frustrated," McDavid said. "It's frustrating personally. It's frustrating as a group. We want to be in the playoffs. We want to be competing late in the season."

McDavid is confident the team will get it right and reassured Oilers fans he's in it for the long haul.

"I want to be here. If I didn't want to be here I wouldn't have signed an eight-year deal."

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