Dhe vacation was far too long. When the NHL stars played for the Stanley Cup in July, Leon Draisaitl was just a spectator. Once again. And again the best German ice hockey player had to nibble on it. “Of course it takes time to get over it,” the 25-year-old admitted.
The frustration after the early elimination in the play-offs with the Edmonton Oilers has now given way to an even greater longing for the most important title in world ice hockey. “I believe that our time has now come, that we now have the team too,” said Draisaitl before the start of the new season, which for him begins with an anniversary: On Thursday night (4:00 am live on Sky) against the Vancouver Canucks, the Cologne player is on the ice for the 500th time in the NHL. His impressive record: 210 goals, 323 assists, 533 points scorer – but so far he has only seen the Stanley Cup from a distance.
“Now it’s up to us to show that we can beat everyone and go far in the play-offs,” emphasized Draisaitl. With his congenial partner Connor McDavid, he has been forming the NHL’s best offensive tandem for several years, but so far there has been no success in the crucial phase of the season. The Oilers have not won a single play-off round since 2017.
“We have more options with the strikers,” said Draisaitl, referring to the new signings in the summer: “I think we have more breadth, more depth, and experience. They are all guys who have played in the play-offs for years. “
The Oilers have great problems putting together two equally strong storm lines with their two superstars. When both play together, for example in a power play, the impact is enormous. But the other attack formations fall significantly. Draisaitl “doesn’t care” whether he prefers to be on the ice with top scorer McDavid or in his own row.
In Edmonton, the supporters who have been waiting for the sixth Stanley Cup triumph for 31 years are growing impatient. Their fear: McDavid, the superstar of the league, “top scorer” of the main round for the third time last season, for the fourth time with 100 or more points and awarded as the most valuable player for the second time, remains an uncrowned ice hockey king. Although he has the ideal partner in Draisaitl, 2020 best points collector, most valuable player in the NHL and Germany’s athlete of the year.
“A bit of normality”
Whether he is the second best player in the world behind McDavid or maybe other stars like the American Auston Matthews or the Canadian Nathan MacKinnon are rated higher by the champions of Toronto and Colorado, Draisaitl is of little interest: “It’s not like that, that I sit on the couch every day and look at such rankings. “
Rather, he is pleased that after the shortened season, spectators are returning to the arenas in Canada and that the away trips are going to the USA again. “We’re all looking forward to a bit of normalcy,” he said.
Because after the shortened season due to the pandemic, the North American ice hockey league is returning to its old mode. Each club will play 82 games again in the regular season, which ends on April 29th. In addition, the division of the divisions that became necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic – including a purely Canadian one – will be reset to the well-known system before the pandemic (Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan Division).
There is another news: With the Seattle Kraken around national goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer there is a 32nd team in the NHL from this season. The Kraken play in the Pacific Division, but the Arizona Coyotes move to the Central Division. The playoffs, the longed-for intermediate goal of the teams, will begin on May 4th. However, the season opener for Seattle and Grubauer failed. On Wednesday night, the newly formed team lost 3: 4 to the Las Vegas Knights. Defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning had a false start in the opening game of the new season. Tampa lost 6-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.