July 26, 2017 6:51 pm

Oilers hope to embrace higher expectations

Edmonton Oilers' Mark Letestu (55) celebrates his goal with teammates during second period NHL hockey round one playoff action against the San Jose Sharks, in Edmonton, Thursday, April 20, 2017.


The doormat days of the “Decade of Darkness” are over for the Edmonton Oilers.

The hockey world used to ask: “When will they finally be a good team?” Now, after a 47-win season and an eighth overall finish in 2016/17, the question is: “How good can they be?”

“Expectations make it a little harder on a hockey club, mentally and physically. We haven’t experienced that as a group yet,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said.

“Teams will be ready for the Oilers. They’ll be prepared to play against us, night in and night out. People, our fans in particular, expect us to win on a more regular basis than we have in the past. Our task just gets tougher.”

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The team will carry the high hopes of Oil Country into the new season, but it’s a burden worth bearing, according to veteran centre Mark Letestu.

“I think that’s a compliment. I think we’re beyond the days of hoping, at least I hope we are,” Letestu said.

“It’s not going to be easy this year. A lot of teams in our division have gotten better, maybe gotten better because of where we’ve gone. It’s maybe put some pressure on the rest of the division. Again, that should be viewed as a compliment. It’s going to be a lot harder this year. We’re not going to be sneaking up on anyone.”

COMMENTARY: Stanley Cup countdown clock now ticking in Edmonton

Letestu knows no team with Connor McDavid is going to be able to operate under the radar. McDavid, 20, won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer last season and also took home the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.

“There’s a trophy you left out. That’s the one he’ll be chasing next,” said Letestu, not shying away from Stanley Cup expectations.

“He takes the time to study the game. He asks great questions. Certainly, he’s our leader. We knew that when we awarded him the captaincy. He proved us right. His teammates respected him,” McLellan said of McDavid.

READ MORE: Connor McDavid disappointed at NHL decision to not participate in 2018 Olympic Games

McLellan and Letestu played in the Mark Spector Golf Classic on Wednesday at The Quarry. The tournament raised over $150,000 for Sport Central.

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