Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing:
- Tyler Bozak’s health status and slow start to the season offensively
- The importance of hockey-life balance
- Ron Hainsey and Patrick Marleau’s impact on the team and dressing room
- The blue line’s contributions offensively
- His “rob and do” philosophy of stealing from the best in order to learn
In the event that Tyler is able to go, how important is it to have the right-handed center who can take draws?
Babcock: For sure. That was one of Bozie’s big strengths in the past. The new rules haven’t helped him as much, but we need him to get back that form of being a dominant faceoff guy. It really helps him. He gets a lot of offense out of the o-zone out of that. We’ll see what happens. I told Willy to make sure he’s ready to play center if we need him to play center if Bozie isn’t feeling up to it. Over time, we’ll just keep working in practice – Willy down low and stuff like that – so that when it’s time, he can just jump in and play center.
Bozak said he hasn’t been happy with how the season has gone overall for him. What have you seen from him in terms of production, getting to the net, and that sort of thing?
Babcock: The big thing for Bozie is – just like when you ask me about Mitch and luck yesterday – the first thing you do is you own it. And he’s done that, which is fantastic. The second thing you do is get to work. You work every day in practice. You work every day in the gym. It’s not luck. It just turns. That’s just the way it is. You compete harder and you work harder, and you get more. Pretty soon you play more. You start feeling better, and it just happens for you. He’s been through it a lot, though. It’s one-third of the season. If you look at your numbers right here today and you multiple it by three, that’s who you are, unless you do something about it. The guys that are off to a great start want to replicate it, and the guys who aren’t want to fix it.
When you get into the depths of the season or the middle of the season, do you talk to different players about decompressing differently?
Babcock: We try to talk every day. You’re trying to make sure life is good. There is your life at the rink and there is your life at home. They are no different than anybody else. They’re worried about what room the baby is sleeping in. They’re worried about their family and lots of different things. Everybody has something going on.
I thought that was what was great about yesterday. When you go to Sick Kids, you realize even those little things you have going on in your life aren’t very big.
The second thing is, when you listen to a kid and he’s telling you he’s got treatments for nine more weeks and he’s all jacked up about it, and you’re having a good look at yourself… that’s a good slap for you. To me, we’re in a great situation. We play in the greatest hockey market in the world. We’re covered big time. We’ve got a good team, a good thing going. Let’s keep it going.
To me, that part has got to be good. Now you have to have your home life going good, too.
What sort of value is there in Patrick Marleau sort of taking [Marner and Matthews] under his wing?
Babcock: It’s a homerun for us, obviously. I had Nik Lidstrom and now I’ve got Pat Marleau. Those are fine, fine human beings to say the least. They make people better. They don’t say anything. They just do what they do every day and they do it better than everybody else. Pretty soon, you look at them and you say, he’s got 100-something game-winners and he’s been in the league for 1,500-whatever games. He’s been doing what he loves to do. He comes in and every day and he doesn’t do anything. He just works hard. It’s not a bad concept. Hoping it rubs off.
Ron Hainsey, with the impact he’s had playing the penalty kill and alongside Morgan Rielly, how has he performed based on your expectations?
Babcock: We liked Hains. It worked out real good. His wife is from Hamilton. Lots of the recruiting with free agents – sure it’s money and opportunity – but it’s a lot of things to do with life, too. We were lucky to get him. No different than Patrick Marleau. For example, Hains met with me on a couple of things today, just for the team. He’s got a voice. Because he plays good and he’s a good pro and he does it right, you get a voice in the room. He’s a good guy on our team. He’s no different than Patty in that way. They have a major impact.
When it comes to creating scoring chances, how much are you looking to your defencemen to shoot deliberately wide to get deflections or tips, or just to get pucks deep?
Babcock: For tips, for sure. Everybody blocks shots. They’re in the lane all the time. You’ve got to find a different way to get the puck to the net and create scoring chances. We are fortunate that our D really helps us generate offense. We’ve got, I think, the second best scoring D in the NHL. We appreciate that. Some things they’ve got a full green light on. Other things, they don’t. Obviously, them being involved in the offense is critical for us to have success.
From last January 1st to now, how do you think the team has grown in terms of confidence and expectations?
Babcock: I think expectations is different. Let’s just knock on some wood. Every time we get talking to good about our team, what happens? We’ve got a game. We haven’t been as good at home. Let’s be prepared. Let’s be hungry and just understand that the only thing that matters in the NHL is if you win today. Then everything is okay. It’s a big day tomorrow.
When you were coming up as a young coach, was there somebody who kind of took you under their wing?
Babcock: I go through lots. I started at Red Deer College. There was a guy, Perry Pearn, at NAIT. His teams were, at the start, better than mine. So I just stole everything he did. The same for Billy Moores at the U of A. I just tried to take everything from Clare Drake. When I got to the Western Hockey League in Spokane, the best coach was Don Hay in Kamloops. So we stole everything we could from Don. You do that all the way.
I always tell Jacques [Lemaire]: When I was in the first year in Anaheim, I went into Minny and I thought we were all ready to go. I watched his morning skate and how fast everything was and compared it to my morning skate and I was like, “Are you kidding me here? We’re in a different league.” I remember sneaking into his practice. Jacques would stop practice if he saw you. So I snuck in and hid behind a pole and learned something. So I call a drill we do, “Jacques Lemaire forecheck drill.” He says, “I never did that drill.” I said, “I stole it.” And he said, “Well, you changed it then.”
I think you learn from all people. Some people help you on purpose and some people you just learn how their team plays and you watch them and learn. I think that’s the key to everything you do in life. No different than you people. If you watch someone you respect doing their job, and they do something a certain way, you say, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea,” and you steal it. I call it R&D – rob and do. You make it your own. It gives you some ideas and you go from there.