Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Wednesday, touching on the blowout loss to Dallas, the firing of Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, the line changes in practice, Mitch Marner’s rookie-of-the-month honours, and more.
Any comments on [fired St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock] and his bad news today, Mike?
Mike Babcock: Hitch is a real good friend of mine and a real good man and an outstanding coach. A Hall-of-Fame coach. It’s always tough. Him and [Doug Armstrong] had a good relationship. It’s hard when those relationship sever now. Bottom line is Hitch is still one of the best coaches in the world. If someone is looking for a coach, I’m sure – after he takes a few months off and gets recharged – he’ll be happy to get back at her. I don’t believe he’s going away to retire. I just don’t believe that. Someone will be lucky to have him.
Do you think that gives [the Blues] a little extra jump tomorrow, maybe?
Babcock: I think it always does for a few days. It gives them a boost of energy. Everyone now is trying out for a new guy. Everyone wants powerplay time, penalty kill time, a regular shift. I think that loosens guys up. Other guys are hoping for a greater lot in life. Other guys worry they might not have the same. I think initially it does. I don’t know if it does much after that, but it does initially.
On responding to last night’s loss:
I think you just do what you do. We didn’t play very well. That was very evident; we were down 3-0 11 minutes into the game last night and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over. We had no structure. We weren’t prepared. We didn’t work. We had no structure. You add those together, you can do whatever you want the rest of the game, but it’s a waste of time. Catch-up hockey is losing hockey. You’ve got to start on time. We did a poor job. We got our hat handed to us, and we move on.
What do you focus on today coming off of a result like that?
Babcock: Did you watch practice?
Babcock: Okay, so just being organized. Being organized coming out of the offensive zone – you can’t give up odd-man rushes. You can’t not know who your guy is. We went through all the scenarios video wise. We went through it all on the ice. We did it again in the defensive zone. We got ourselves moving so we can be ready to play tomorrow.
With a bad loss on a long road trip, good to see the guys in the shootout drill having some fun?
Babcock: That’s why we did it, right? That was the plan. Yesterday is over with. There is nothing we can do to fix yesterday now. We can fix tomorrow by doing things right today. Energy is a huge part of life, as you know.
Will you be starting off tomorrow night with the lines you had today?
Babcock: I don’t have any idea, but I’ve got lots of time. I’ll figure that out by tomorrow morning. I have no idea, but I didn’t want to watch the same group that started the game start practice today. How’s that?
I know you like certain guys together and that sort of thing. Do you go with the idea that it’s just one game, or does part of you say, “let’s see how some of these guys do with each other?”
Babcock: If it was just one game, I wouldn’t do anything. I wouldn’t think about it. But I don’t think that’s the case. So I’ve got to decide. The other thing is – you don’t just need one line. You need three lines or four lines. You’ve got to have good balance. We’ll figure that out. We ground for many hours this morning. We’ll talk about it again today, I’m sure.
You must like the fact that you have lots of options, though. These are realistic choices for you.
Babcock: For sure it is. My big thing is that your job as a coach is to get everyone to maximize their potential. Right now, that is not the case. We can get more out of guys. We’ve got to find a way as a coaching staff to do a better job of getting more out of them.
Any answer on #44?
Babcock: I don’t have anything. I thought he was playing yesterday, so I’m not getting caught up in that. He’s not playing as far as I’m concerned until he tells me different.
Andersen had a lot of time off and played just nine minutes last night. Did you give any thought to bringing him back in the third just to play him?
Babcock: Zero. With all these games we’ve got coming up… he had to play one less, right? I don’t want to do that very often, but when you decline, you decline.
Mitch has been named the rookie of the month. Is it good for a young guy to get league-wide recognition like that?
Babcock: For sure. Obviously, he’s a good player. He’s come a long way. We expect him to drive a line for us. We expect him to be an elite, elite player. We think he can. He’s got a long way to go in his journey, but he’s playing hard and playing well. I thought he had good jump when he got with [Auston Matthews] last night, but I need him to have good jump when he’s not with [Matthews].