Mike Babcock: “I’m going to know way more about our roster in ten games”

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On tomorrow’s season opener:

Mike Babcock: Obviously, we’re going there to win. We think our preparation has been good. We still have a long way to go as a team. I think most teams in our league do at this time. We’ll get ready for a good Ottawa team. It should be exciting for our young guys. We need to start better than we started and play with more poise with the puck, but we’re excited.

On picking up Seth Griffith:

Babcock: I don’t know much about him, to be honest with you. [Mark Hunter] and his group obviously felt that he was a guy who may be able to help us. Hunts has a history with him. I’m assuming that went into the deal.

How do you think William playing the wall this year will help in his development?

Babcock: Well, he’s playing with two really good players right now in Matthews and Hyman. He doesn’t have to meet with the coach every day and go over video defensively with mistakes. He can worry about playing and spend less time with less responsibility in the defensive zone. Matthews is a bigger body and capable of doing that. I think that frees up Bozak and Kadri to get the kind of ice time they want as well. I didn’t have room for four centers and this way it works out good.

How big is roster continuity going to be, given how many players you used last year? One year in, they’re more familiar with you.

Babcock: Our group isn’t going to change anywhere near as much. Initially here at the start, there might be some changes. I’m going to know way more about our roster in five games and in ten games than I do now. That will give us a better chance to have the right people on the team. Right now, this is the group we’re going with.

What benefit might there be to having a core group of young guys coming up together, learning together?

Babcock: I think that’s great. They’re going to have to take significant steps, and obviously we’re counting on our leadership group – real good men – to show them the way and be good pros. That’s so important in the development and the changing of culture in our group, and the expectation to win each and every night. They’re going to be part of the growth process, but, I mean, there’s obviously going to be a lot more young guys to come over time here. They’ve just got to keep getting better.

Do you change your coaching approach at all with such a young group?

Babcock: I think you change it with everybody. There are 23 guys and they’re all different. You try to coach them all different. Your expectations for the group are going to be very high. Your expectation of professionalism and attitude and all of those things are absolutely critical. I think you set a higher standard, they get used to it, and they internalize that so it just becomes what they do every day.

On Josh Leivo’s status:

Babcock: He’s not out there today. I’m assuming he’ll be out there tomorrow, though, or the next day. There is nothing major. We just thought we’d give him a day.

Do you think there was some rust for Andersen to shake off in preseason?

Babcock: 100%. Any time you’ve been out for a month and you don’t get to play exhibitions, that’s for sure. That’s one position we’re pretty comfortable with. For all goaltenders it doesn’t go all right all the time, but once you get your rhythm back — usually if you’ve been good and that’s in your DNA — it’s usually pretty consistent.

Do you plan on using three alternate captains for the whole year?

Babcock: It’s a real good question. It’s a real good question.

What value does Prust bring, keeping him around?

Babcock: He’s just a good guy, a good person. Plays hard and a good teammate. All of these things will work out over time, obviously, and we’ll work it out as we need to.

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