Mike Babcock met with the media after practice on Friday, discussing the team’s poor performance against New York, the return of Martin Marincin, the waiver claim of Seth Griffith, #BellLetsTalk, the value of Matt Martin, and more.
[Martin Marincin] is feeling good, ready to return. What sort of impact can he make for you guys?
Mike Babcock: Marty has a chance to be a real good player. He’s got to earn the right to feel confident and play like he can. Great stick, great skater. The ball is in his court. What we’ll do is we’ll decide on our lineup after our skate tomorrow. We’ll see who is healthy and who is not and make our decisions at that time.
You guys claimed Seth Griffith off waivers today. What are your impressions of bringing him in?
Babcock: When I talked to Lou today, he talked about that. We’ll just see where that goes.
You’re playing every second day. As tough as the game was last night, you get a chance to, for a lack of a better term, hit the reset button and build and move toward the next game.
Babcock: We were terrible last night. I haven’t been here that long, but in the time I’ve been here, I don’t know how often I came to the rink where we thought we shouldn’t win. You’re not disappointed that often. Even at times last year when we lost, you just come in and you pump the guys up and get ready to go. But we didn’t compete hard last night. We weren’t prepared. That’s my job. I was disappointed when we left the rink. Weren’t ready to go. No detail. Whether that was a team that was feeling good about themselves and didn’t compete… the other team had lost three in a row and had given up goals and were ready to go. And yet our goaltender still gave us a chance, and we still found a way not to respond. To me, that part was disappointing. So, that’s one and it’s got to be done.
We’re playing a good Ottawa team tomorrow and they’re going to be competitive. We beat them last time we played them in a back-to-back situation. It was a good win for us. We just played patient. We scored and we played inside. We’re going to have to play better here tomorrow. I say this all the time. My mom had that note on her fridge, “let your ups be longer than your downs.” Same thing here. Dropped a game, let’s get going.
I know you’ve talked more and more this week about mental health issues and #BellLetsTalk. What has changed in that regard as far as that issue from the time you started until now?
Babcock: I mean, lots of things, obviously. I think the biggest thing is just the idea of talking about it. I know myself, since my kids got older, I’m a way better coach just because I’ve seen what they’ve gone through as athletes. The other thing is, as your kids get older and they leave your house, you can think of nothing worse than them suffering in silence — if they’ve got things not going good in their life and they’re not sharing it. Mental illness affects one in every five Canadians. If you think about that, that means four people in my dressing room must be affected in some way. You know, when you think of someone like Clara Hughes – as mentally tough of an athlete as he is and was – she had mental illness. Mental toughness and mental illness have nothing to do with one another. I think, when you educate yourself and you can listen a little bit and you’re compassionate and talk to people, it’s amazing what just having someone to talk to is about. I know I have a great friend in my wife. I know I’m a better person because she’s around and I’ve got someone to talk to. Bell Let’s Talk is about opening up and talking, but I think we’ve come many, many miles in this area and we’re more compassionated and understanding.
Do you see that in the room, Mike? Over your career as a coach, has that been a lot more open among the players?
Babcock: I just think that everything in today’s world is way different. What was accepted 10 years ago as the norm and what’s accepted now is way different. Young people today don’t worry about as many things, and yet because I’ve been so involved and lost some friends to mental health and I’ve been so involved in it, my kids are involved in it. They’re all college-aged kids. When I’m talking to them, they’re talking about their teammates, their friends, people they know. It affects everybody. We can all have a great life. Some of us have high blood pressure, so we take some medication and no one thinks [anything] of that. I don’t know why there is this stigma with mental health.
When Gardiner and Carrick are most effective, what are they doing as a pair?
Babcock: They’re playing at the offensive blue line. They get the puck moving and they don’t have to defend. It was pretty evident last night we couldn’t move the puck. As a coaching staff, we didn’t have our pairs organized [well] enough early and we didn’t move the puck. If you play in your own zone, it’s a long night and not much fun.
If Marty is back, what is the potential there with Zaitsev, do you think?
Babcock: He’s a good player, but he’s got to play well. It’s great to be a good player. You’ve got to play well and you’ve got to earn the right to feel good about yourself. Zaitsev is a real good player. We’ve got to be way better than last night. Whatever steps we can take to do that, we’re going to do.
Have you noticed that this is a group that responds well to an off-night in the past?
Babcock: Yeah, but I would say that maybe my expectations are way different for the group. I thought that was the least competitive night we’ve had this year. To me, it wasn’t good enough. The guys told me that the players cleared out of the room pretty quickly last night. They know, too. They’re big boys, too. They know what’s going on. We came to the rink expecting to win. We didn’t prepare right, we didn’t execute right, we didn’t compete hard enough, we didn’t get what we wanted. Let’s get back on track.
On what Matt Martin does that maybe doesn’t show up in the analytics:
Babcock: It’s huge. We don’t get slapped around ever. Last year we got abused. We never get slapped around. Not only is he a good player, he is a great man, and he treats those kids with kindness and with the firm hand of accountability at the same time. He’s a good pro. He lives right. He acts right. He treats his teammates right. He’s got a huge fan in me, I can tell you that. When we first lost [Ben Smith], it was a blow to Marty, too. We didn’t have a center for him. Now that Goat is playing [well] again and he’s got that line going again, they were our best line last night.
How about Morgan, Mike?
Babcock: Morgan skated this morning by himself. He told me he was doing fine. He was hoping to be better than he was today, but he’s doing fine. I don’t know what that means. Does that mean day to day? Does that mean ten days? Day to day is normally ten days, so is it longer than that? I don’t know.