Storylines to Watch
– Nothing is set in stone, but tonight is the first look at the Marleau – Kadri – Komarov line. We know Mike Babcock likes the idea on paper: “If that could work for us, that would be really good.” This could go any number of ways, but if it proves to be a fit with Komarov on the right side of Kadri’s line, that could mean Connor Brown starts the regular season on the fourth line.
– Can Carl Grundstrom force his way into the conversation for a roster spot? The numbers game suggests there are long odds here; already there isn’t space for any of Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov or Kasperi Kapanen among the regular 12 if we assume Matt Martin’s permanent spot is safe. But Grundstrom has significant professional experience in the SHL, quickly looked like an impact AHLer in his short playoff stint last spring, and was clearly above the level of competition at the rookie tournament a week ago. Just about every game he’s played on North American soil has been impressive, dating back to the World Junior tournament last winter.
– We’ll see come game time, but it looks like summer signing Andreas Borgman might get an audition on the right side next to Jake Gardiner. He’d need to outplay Connor Carrick on that side for regular minutes, but it’s a thinner group on the right than it is on the left.
– Travis Dermott laid down a marker with a good performance in Ottawa last night, while Calle Rosen also has impressed Babcock through camp and the first preseason game. How does Martin Marincin respond? He’s very much playing for his job this preseason but does have the advantage of having earned Mike Babcock’s trust in shorthanded situations. The club appears to need another mainstay PK option beyond Morgan Rielly, Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev.
– How does Mitch Marner look after adding some muscle in his first summer as an NHLer? It’s just a warm-up game, but the strides he made from 2015 camp to 2016 camp were significant and he appears to have put the work in over the offseason.
Game Day: Mike Babcock
What have you seen from the line of Kadri, Marleau and Komarov so far? What do you like about how they might complement each other?
Babcock: I’m going to watch them tonight. I haven’t seen them, just like you. We just had three days there. I would’ve told you we had three good days and then I watched our game last night and they couldn’t have been that good.
What do you want to see from Roman Polak coming back from injury?
Babcock: He’s just got to get healthy. To tell you the truth, I haven’t even paid any attention to him. Until he’s in a situation to play in a game, it’s just a matter of him on rehab.
What is your expectation for what Dominic Moore will add this season?
Babcock: The first thing is he’s like a lot of guys — there are a lot of battles for jobs. We’re looking for a fourth line center. There are a number of guys in on that battle — Fehr and Aaltonen and himself, and Smith. We’ll just see what happens.
Mason Marchment made it through the first round of cuts. What has he shown you that made him deserve that?
Babcock: I think he’s just worked hard and competed hard. He’s a guy who obviously has gotten better. Obviously, he’s not slated for our team, but in the organization, they seem to like him. We’re giving him every opportunity to see what’s going on and see what it’s like to be a pro and try to get better.
Colin Greening is a guy who went down to the AHL last year and by all accounts had a really good attitude. Is he the type of guy who is trying to avoid being typecast as an AHLer at this point in his career? What does he have to do to get back to this level?
Babcock: You’ve got to win a job. If it’s not with us, when it’s waiver time, someone’s got to claim you. He’s a big guy. He can play real tough. He can shoot the puck a tonne. At the NHL level, he’s a winger. He’s a good man and does a good job.
In the two seasons you’ve had Jake Gardiner, how have you seen his game progress as he gets up toward 400 games in his career now?
Babcock: It’s night and day. There has been no bigger change in any player on the team than him. He’s gone from a guy who didn’t have confidence to maybe our best D with and without the puck. I know people don’t like to think about him like that, but he’s that good. He’s a good, good player and has a lot of confidence. He’s smart, has got elite hockey sense, good edges. Gets the puck going. Good player.
You have a lot of respect for Roman. As a coach, you have to be pretty coldhearted about how guys fit in. Do you allow yourself to root for a guy like that, though?
Babcock: I root for everybody who works hard and competes hard and does things right. But in the end, I never confuse the player and the person. At this time of year, you’re looking for players. At the same time, you’re hoping they’re really good people. If it’s a 50-50 situation and the tie goes to the best person, a guy like Polie has a chance to win.
Frederik Andersen is very happy with his offseason and feels a lot leaner. How might help him — and by extension the team — this year?
Babcock: Yeah, just be quicker and more fit. I just saw a group of tired guys out on the ice. You’re on your fifth day, you played last night, you traveled, you’re skating again today… the better shape you are, the more you bounce back. The worst shape you’re in, the sorer your back is and sorer your legs are and the less you move. Suddenly, you don’t practice hard or do the training you’re supposed to do and it’s an ugly sight.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
Marleau – Kadri – Leo
JVR – Bozak – Marner
Johnsson – Smith – Grundstrom
Rychel – Greening – T.Moore
Gardiner – Borgman
Marincin – LoVerde
Valiev – Holl
Nielsen – Polak
Ottawa Senators Projected Lines
McCormick – Thompson – Pyatt
Vandevelde – Brown – DiDomenico
Batherson – Reinhart – Kelly
Formenton – Chlapik – Blunden
full lines to come
Game Day Interviews: Babcock, Marleau, Kadri, Andersen