Some will roll their eyes, and maybe even note that John Tortorella was saying the same sort of stuff.
But Milan Lucic is earnest in his desire to change the culture of Edmonton Oilers.
“This is a team that hasn’t really had an identity over the last couple of years and I think that’s the first thing we need to establish,” Lucic said yesterday, per the Edmonton Journal. “You have the right coach, you have the right GM and you have the right superstar to lead the way. It’s just about everyone having the right attitude and mindset in order for that all to come together.”
Lucic signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Oilers on July 1. The 28-year-old was brought in by his old general manager in Boston, Peter Chiarelli, with whom he celebrated a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.
For all that money, Lucic will be expected to score, provide leadership, and play the kind of heavy, physical hockey that Chiarelli believes is necessary for the Oilers to be successful. The GM also brought in big wingers Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian last season.
“We’re in a heavy division, we’re in a really heavy division,” Chiarelli said after landing Lucic in free agency. “You looked at guys like Connor [McDavid] and Leon [Draisaitl] at the end of the year when you go up to California, those are tough matchups. You’ve got to be able to wear down the opposition, too, and that’s what the big guys do. You’ve got to be able to play, at the end of the day you have to be able to play and all those guys you mentioned can play.”
“It kind of gives us that swagger, that meanness that we have been looking for,” McDavid added. “We tried to do that a little bit last year in adding a couple of bigger bodies and it definitely helped, but now you have the addition of Lucic and those guys we added before. We definitely have that mean streak that other teams won’t want to be pushing us around.”
While nobody really believes the Oilers are ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, there is significant pressure on them to improve. The last time they made the playoffs was 2006, and they’re moving in to a new downtown arena this season.
Said Chiarelli in May: “We owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time and we’re going to look at all options to allow us to do that.”