Game Day: Mike Babcock
Six games in eight days. Is this enough repetition to get your club the consistency that you want to see prior to the start of the regular season?
Babcock: It’s more about trying out, to be honest with you. We had practice time and all that. We actually worked hard in practice. We haven’t worked hard enough in games yet. Tonight, hopefully, that will change. Now we’ve got six times to look at players, which is real important. Some guys will play more than others. Our veteran guys are playing four games and then from there on guys are in the hunt… we’ll try to get them in as much as we can.
Jack Eichel, in a recent article, made a comment about Auston’s ‘F you’ attitude and his swagger and his confidence. Do you see that in how he carries himself in terms of his confidence?
Babcock: I didn’t read anything yesterday so I don’t have a clue what was said. Matty is a great kid and he’s got confidence and he believes in himself. I don’t know if the way you said it is the way I would describe it. What I would describe it as is that he’s pretty sure of his own ability. He’s committed to his work ethic. He’s a good person and he’s going to try to do it right every day. He’s in a pursuit to get better. We are lucky to have him.
What have you learned about Miro Aaltonen so far in his time here?
Babcock: We’re just learning, to tell the truth. He was an offensive player in the KHL. We are asking him to be a defensive player who is good at faceoffs and penalty killing; that kind of thing. It’s probably a big change for him. It’s just the nuances of how we do things – he’s got to get up to speed or you tend to look bad. He does have skill and he does have the determination and it looks like a player who is in the mix.
Justin Holl’s agility, his opportunity to play 158 games in two years with the Marlies, his right shot… are these things that might give him a good look?
Babcock: Obviously, he’s a real good skater. There are a lot of D there where I don’t know. It’s too early for me. I’m just going to keep watching.
With six games in eight days, as a coach, how do you manage all of that?
Babcock: It’s just to get us in shape for the season. The players are only playing three of them. It’s no different for them. We’ve just got an extra group. After the summer we had off, they need some good training.
What are your expectations for a younger guy like Andrew Nielsen who is just getting in finally tonight?
Babcock: It’s like anything. You get in because you earned the right to get in. If there are too many guys ahead of you, you’ve got to do something about it. I think you come to camp and you think you’re slotted in a certain spot, and you watch the players and you start to go, “Woah.” Every guy counts. Believe me. Everybody can count. They try to figure out where they’re slotted. In the end, the best players play. You’ve just go to figure out a way to do that.
Mitch Marner said he spent a lot of time working on his shot over the summer. He wants to get into more of a shoot-first mindset. Do you think if opponents respect him more as a shooter, it might help him in the long run?
Babcock: 100%. He’s got to have a big-time shot. He just has to if he wants to take a step. He knows all of that. Mitch worked real hard this summer. He’s skating real good. Mitch is a committed guy and wants to do well. We’re fortunate with that. His shot has got to become a weapon.
Matt Martin’s role on this team… We’re seeing Pittsburgh pick up Ryan Reaves and Nashville gets Cody McLeod. Is there still a role for that kind of guy?
Babcock: You keep the flies off. Last game, when Mitch got run over, that’s why Clune is dressed. It’s just that simple. You want your players to play. You don’t want your players to be thinking. Those guys are here to do a job and their job is important.
Last year, there were a lot of rookies. In year two, is it kind of maybe less important or is it still there?
Babcock: Not for me. It’s still there.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
Hyman – Matthews – Nylander
Marleau – Kadri – Komarov
Leivo – Aaltonen – Brown
Martin – Mueller – Lindberg
Rielly – Hainsey
Borgman – Dermott
Nielsen – Holl