Dave Naylor: Mike Babcock is in charge of this team. If you want to play, you have to do things his way. We never see previous Maple Leaf coaches basically play the heavy card here. We’ve heard lots of sort of complaining at news conferences and pleading with players to play a certain way, but we never saw an A-list player from the Maple Leafs, that I can think of, spend a night in the press box.
McKenzie: There’s a lot of different ways you can look at it. When Mike Babcock was in Detroit, did Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg spend a night in the press box? No, of course not. People would say, “why would you do that?” It’s what comes first – the chicken or the egg. You’re right; Babcock is very much in charge in terms of the players having to please him. The other thing is – the Toronto Maple Leafs have had Randy Carlyle as a coach. He can be a tough guy and what have you. Sure, he “laid down the law,” but it’s a little different when it’s Mike Babcock. If you’ve got a lot of swagger, then you’ve got a lot of clout. He’s got a lot of leverage — the contract that he signed, the reputation that he’s got, not only with the Detroit Red Wings but with Team Canada winning gold at the Olympics. He’s as good as it gets, or perceived to be as good as it gets, and therefore is probably viewed a lot differently. Whether it’s a star player or whatever, Babcock has the big stick, so to speak. We’ll see how he decides to wield it or if he needs to wield it, or whether he simply goes about his job and you don’t see any major conflicts or major stars going into the press box.
Dave Feschuk: Bob, last night William Nylander stood out. He’s been standing out in this training camp so far. He’s 19 years old and we’re told it’s a draft and development model with some Detroit background, where they over-ripen guys in the minors. Do you think there’s any chance he stays in the NHL this year?
McKenzie: I’d be surprised. You never say never, but I think all things being equal he’s destined for the American Hockey League. As I said, training camp is a unique thing. Obviously, yeah, he played well last night. Last night was the first real preseason game as I said yesterday on the show. I wouldn’t even count split squad games as preseason hockey. It’s almost just a scrimmage compared to what the preseason games will be now, what they are next week, leading up to the final weekend before the regular season begins. The preseason ramps up and it becomes more difficult as you go along. You’ve got to be really cautious reading too much into what you see in the first week of preseason hockey. Hey, listen, Nylander played in the American Hockey League last year. He’s a good hockey player. We know in terms of vision, skill, a lot of those things, he’s in the top two or three in the entire Maple Leaf organization right now. That doesn’t mean you plop him in the lineup and suffer the slings and arrows of a 19 year old playing in the NHL. You could do that and some teams do, but I think it’s counterproductive to what the Leafs are trying to do here. Now, you’ve also got to recognize the player and if he thinks he’s ready, and if he has a really good camp, that’s up to Lou Lamoriello or Mike Babcock to sell him on the idea of, “we know you don’t want to be here, we know you aren’t happy being here, but trust us, you’ve got to go down and play in the AHL while we sort out what exactly it is we’ve got here.” In a way, you’re protecting and insulating him from what’s going on. Mike Babcock, when he was hired, what did he say? “I want to create a safe environment for the players.” Again, we don’t have the full training camp to make a full decision on this, but probably the “safe environment” for Nylander, even though he probably disagrees, is in the AHL with Sheldon Keefe.