Mike Babcock met with the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing the lineup shuffle, Tyler Bozak’s struggles, shifting Patrick Marleau to center, and more.
Over the course of an 82-game season, is it important to tweak your lineup and find the right combinations to adjust as you go along?
Babcock: I think it’s like anything. If it’s going really good, why would you do it? If it’s not going as good after a while, you’ve got to find a way to fix it. We’ve tried a few things and it hasn’t gone as good. We need more guys going at the same time to have success. I thought last night’s game was an example of just one team staying on and staying on and staying on it all night long. I thought we fed their transition by turning pucks over and it made it hard for us. Our goaltender did a good job and we still had an opportunity, but in the end, we weren’t good enough. When that’s been as a consistent theme of late, it’s time for change.
What do you like about Josh Leivo with Nazem Kadri?
Babcock: Leivs is a good player. He comes in and he does a good job for us. Should he be in every day? You can debate that all you want. The reality is you need a certain amount of power play guys and a certain amount of penalty kill guys and enough speed of your lineup. He’s coming in and he’s going to get a good opportunity. His opportunity now is to grab hold and make it as hard on me as possible and takes someone’s job. When you get a chance to get in, just take someone’s job.
Is there a comfort with Carrick and Gardiner just having seen them last year for a time?
Babcock: Obviously, we think [Carrick] should be in the lineup on a regular basis. He’s been out for a bit. We’re going to give him a chance. We just think that gives us three solid pairs. We think Borgman is really starting to come and settle in. We don’t have to worry or be as concerned about matchups; we can roll them out the door more and maybe give us more balance and puck movement.
What’s missing for Bozak and that line?
Babcock: It’s a good question. This is what I’d say to you: When it doesn’t go good, confidence — it doesn’t matter how good of a player you are — is the first thing. It’s not that Bozak is not trying. It’s not that he isn’t putting effort in. It’s just not going for him right now. He’s got to find it. I think the good thing about Bozie is, when things aren’t going right for him, he owns it. He’s not looking for anybody else. He’s just looking for himself to find a way out. It’s no different than when the team doesn’t go good and it’s on me. The reality is we’ve got to own what is going on for us and we’ve got to make it better. We need him to be an important player for us. We need him to be feeling good. We really thought last year we had a really good line in Mitch, James and him. Right now, it’s not working for whatever reason. We’ll give them some time apart.
Do you like Patrick’s versatility?
Babcock: Obviously, it’s given us an option; otherwise, we wouldn’t have the option. We didn’t acquire him to play in the middle, to be honest with you. That wasn’t our plan and sure isn’t our intent. It’s just what we’re doing right now.