The Edmonton Oilers may have finished at the bottom of the Western Conference last season, missing out on the playoffs once again and getting another early first-round draft pick.
But former Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, speaking in an interview on a wide range of topics, from U.S. politics to adjusting to life in the KHL, with Igor Erenko of Sport-Express and translated for Postmedia, seems to believe that organization is taking positive steps under veteran head coach Todd McLellan.
Scrivens, who turns 30 years old next month, played 78 games in goal for the Oilers before he was eventually traded to Montreal last December. He posted a .916 save percentage in 21 games for Edmonton in the 2013-14 campaign, but saw that number dip to .890 the following season.
Despite accumulating top draft picks — highly skilled forwards for the most part — the result of losing season after losing season, the Oilers have been unable to make any real progress toward becoming a contender in the West.
“We didn’t have a good enough team, it didn’t have sufficient structure, but that’s been getting better. And the last unsuccessful season notwithstanding, I think that Todd McLellan is moving in the right direction. In any case, I was happy to be a part of Edmonton, to be in my home town,” said Scrivens, who signed last month with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.
“A lot of first picks overall helps only when they play for the team, and play well. That, obviously, wasn’t happening in Edmonton. That’s a coach’s job to force the team to be responsible. But management must show support, showing the players that they wouldn’t be picking him apart just so. When the players don’t play well, you can hardly change anything.”
He also praised maligned forward Nail Yakupov for how hard he works, but added Yakupov needs the “right coach” to help him develop his game.
McLellan wrapped up his first season with the Oilers, who posted a 31-43-8 record.
Further to what Scrivens said about structure, or a lack of, McLellan began demanding more of it last preseason after a loss to Vancouver that featured some particularly bad defensive breakdowns. The coach then cautioned everyone that the necessary improvements would take time.
Improvements to the roster were also necessary. The Oilers needed a defenseman. A good defenseman.
This summer, the Oilers and GM Peter Chiarelli decided to act, acquiring blue liner Adam Larsson from New Jersey in exchange for Taylor Hall, a dynamic offensive talent. That’s a hefty price, but one the Oilers coach believed his organization needed to pay.