Connor McDavid said watching the Montreal Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Final showed him that his Edmonton Oilers can compete for the title.
“I think the parity in the NHL, it just goes to show the margin for error is so slim, and then the margin for success is just as slim,” the NHL MVP told TSN on Friday. “There’s teams that have figured out a way to do it each and every year. Obviously [the Tampa Bay Lightning] winning back to back. It just takes the right formula, a little tweak here and there, and it could send a team off to the races.
“We obviously [like] where our group is at, we’ve got lots of guys that are just stepping into their primes that’s a core group, and we’ve got lots of pieces around that. [General manager Ken Holland] has a big offseason with some money to work with, so you never really know what can happen.”
Edmonton was second in the Scotia North Division this season, and Montreal was fourth. But the Oilers were 11th in the NHL standings and the Canadiens were 18th and became the lowest finisher to reach the Cup Final since the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010.
Montreal lost the Cup Final to Tampa Bay in five games.
“I think if you ask anyone in the North Division who had to play [the Canadiens] nine or 10 times, they can tell you it’s not surprising,” McDavid said. “Their team was built for the playoffs, they’re big and strong and mean and they’ve got four lines that just all roll over and do the same thing. They obviously have one of the best goalies (Carey Price), if not the best goalie, backing them up, so they’re a real solid team, and we certainly had battles with them, and they had a great month.”
The Oilers were 4-4-1 against the Canadiens this season.
This offseason, Edmonton has re-signed forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with an eight-year contract worth $41 million (average annual value $5.125 million), and reportedly are in talks to re-sign goalie Mike Smith and extend defenseman Darnell Nurse.
McDavid was a unanimous selection for the Hart Trophy as MVP after the center scored 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games this season. Edmonton, which was swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the Stanley Cup First Round, has won one playoff series since he made his NHL debut in 2015-16.
“Well, I think you know when it first ends, you never really want it to end and it takes a little bit of time to get over that, and then, at a certain point in time to get ready to get back at it,” McDavid said. “Certainly now that the season’s over and the Cup’s been handed out, the focus shifts to next year and everyone will be getting ready to go for a big year next year.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report