On last night’s game:
Mike Babcock: Obviously, a whole bunch of guys played their first game. I think that’s a great experience and something fun to be a part of – just their enthusiasm. Obviously, we did lots of good things in the game. In the end, you want to win the game because you feel a lot better about that — keeping a couple of pucks out and finding a way to bury a few. We tried to focus on things we didn’t do very well last night here today, and then a brief practice to get ready for a real good team in Washington.
When the young players were on the ice at the end of the game, does that speak to the opportunity that you’re affording them, or did they earn it?
Babcock: I didn’t afford them anything. It doesn’t work like that. We’re trying to win the game so whoever I thought had the best chance to score was on the ice.
With Brooks Laich in particular, he seems like a great guy. Initial impressions?
Babcock: He is for sure. Obviously, his responsibility in Washington dwindled, and so we need to help him get his game back to a level it was once at. He’s still a young enough guy to have an impact – not only have an impact on the room, you want to have an impact on the ice. We’ll be working closely with him on that.
Milan Michalek seemed to rotate in on the top line a couple times. Is he getting closer to getting back in?
Babcock: I think he just was taking the time of some people who probably thought they played lots last night. I don’t think it had anything to do with that. He’s got some work to do before he’s ready to go here. He’s been off a long time so he’s got to skate.
A lot of people have seen young players with the Marlies this year, but Carrick maybe people aren’t familiar with. What were your impressions of him?
Babcock: I thought he was good. He got confidence as the game went on. I thought he had some real compete in him. He moved the puck not bad, can shoot the puck. He’s just got to play a simple game. You see there today that the puck gets through him and that, so we’ll get that sorted out in the next week or two here.
Brooks Laich: I don’t know if I am looking forward to it, and I don’t know if I’m not. It is what it is, right? The emotions are pretty heavy still. I’m very fortunate for my time there. Really appreciative of the fans and the support I’ve received over the past couple of days, and certainly over the past 12 years. Just the friendships – lifelong friendships with people, people who have meant a great deal in my life. Going to be a lot of mixed emotions and I’m going to have to try to control myself a little bit. Going to have some fun, too.
Will that be difficult, trying to change the page from being a teammate to those guys a few days ago to being a competitor?
Laich: It’ll take one shift and one of those guys will put me into the boards because I know the style of play that they have and I know how much winning matters in that locker room. Yeah, they are good friends, but they know me as well and that I’m going to compete too. I have a responsibility to the guys in this locker room to try to help us win. They’re going to try and do the same. I’m sure we’ll have a little moment during the game of saying hi, or something, or before the game, but once the puck drops we can wait for the friendship until after the game.
You seem comfortable here already. You were joking out there with William and Kapanen.
Laich: Kind of a funny story. I told Willy that for however many years in Washington, because I would always PK against our powerplay there, that there was a cute little Swede on the wall named Niklas Backstrom who had the puck all the time. When we do the PK drill, I’d always tell him, “I’m going to roll out the red carpet and welcome you to hell.” And now this time, we’ve got maybe an even cuter little Swede on the wall. So I just tried to bring that with me, and told him, “welcome to hell,” and then told Kapi the same thing. Willy said, “I’m glad to be here,” and went in and put one bar down on me. Just a fun little thing. Good guys, just want to get to know them and play alongside them, and make sure they remember the game is always fun.
Yesterday Brian McLellan got emotion discussing the trade and trading you. What does that say of the relationship you had there?
Laich: Brian is a smart guy. He was aware of the situation, but the move was still made. I don’t know what to say about that. I had had a conversation with him and conveyed that I wanted to be part of it and wanted to go after a Cup. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. On the flipside of that, this is a great opportunity here. You look at the standings and some people might say, “oh, he could be grumpy and upset.” No, this is a privilege to play in the NHL. It’s a privilege to play for this franchise. I was a Maple Leaf fan until I was drafted by the Ottawa Senators and that allegiance switched pretty quick. But I’m very excited to be here. The players and the staff have welcomed me in. I’m just very excited to be here and a part of the guys.