Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Friday, discussing the decision to move Leo Komarov back onto the right wing of Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau in practice (with Mitch Marner next to William Nylander and Zach Hyman), the challenge ahead against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Auston Matthews’ status, and more.
Leafs lines in practice
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 9, 2018
How important is it to have a roster as versatile and perhaps as deep as yours to be able to tweak as the season goes on, whether it be Leo Komarov on one line or another line to accomodate the opponent you’re playing?
Babcock: Obviously, you look at every team in the NHL and it takes place all the time. It’s just a bigger story here. We move people around and try to give ourselves the best opportunity. I don’t know what the lineup is going to be 100%. We’ll just see what they did today and see what’s going to give us the best chance to have success.
When Crosby and Malkin are on their games, is there a more elite 1-2 punch in the league?
Babcock: They’ve done a real nice job. Those are elite, elite players, obviously. They’re fortunate to get them in the draft and made good decisions and got them. But they’ve got lots of good players. Brassard gives them more depth, as well. They’ve done a real nice job of creating real nice depth.
Any time you’re able to trade a starter and then bring in another starter behind him, you’ve done a good job drafting, too. You’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit. They have a team that is built for this year. It should be a lot of fun for us.
Ron Hainsey was saying that he sees a trend in the league towards three really tough lines, Pittsburgh being a prime example. You could talk about Winnipeg. Do you see it as a trend?
Babcock: It’s only going to be a trend for the fortunate. I’ll tell you that.
If you had three weapons, he said you’d spread them out three lines.
Babcock: I mean, if you’ve got three centermen, that’s what you do. If you don’t have centermen, you probably can’t do it. Centers are the hardest guys to acquire, without any question. When you get real good ones, you want to try to surround them with the best people you possibly can. But there is no question it creates matchup problems for teams that aren’t deep down the middle.
Does Malkin get the credit he rightly deserves considering he’s played with Sid for so long? If he’s on another team, maybe he’s the guy.
Babcock: I think we’ve been talking about him since I started here, so I think that’s some credit. The other thing I’d say to you is that I think he won the Conn Smythe, if I’m not mistaken, in ’09. He’s been an All Star a number of times. Does he get as much as he might if he was by himself? No, but he wouldn’t win as much as if he was by himself. Do you want the credit or do you want the wins?
Any sense that Tomas Plekanec is settling in of late?
Babcock: Oh ya. We talked about this already. He’s going to settle in for sure as time goes on. When Matthews is back, we’ll be in a better position to surround him, as well. That will help as well.
Have you talked to Claude Julien about how to get the most out of him?
Babcock: No, I didn’t. I got information, obviously, from [Bergevin] about him and talked about that. I made a point at the time of not asking. If you made the deal and you ask, and you don’t get any good feedback, what do you do? I already made the deal, right? And I can’t call before you make the deal. It doesn’t work like that. I’m not big into bad news after the fact.
I’m not too worried about that. No, him and I haven’t talked about it.
Do you appreciate the way Frederik Andersen sort of rides the rollercoaster in Toronto. There’s going to be a stretch where the puck goes in, but he’s keeps sort of riding the wave.
Babcock: I think that’s for everybody. Just do what you do. There is always ups and downs in anything that you do. You just try to come in each and every day and put your best foot forward and usually things work out. You can’t control everything. I’ve seen, with this group, we you get rolling pretty good and then you get off of it, and you’ve got to dig yourself out. It’s no different for him than it is for the team. Work hard and do good things and good things will happen to you.
Auston Matthews is still wearing the red jersey, but is he progressing in a positive direction?
Babcock: He’s progressing for sure. What does that mean? I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t ask him every day. Just, “How are you doing?” like anybody else. To me, when he’s ready, he’ll let us in for sure. Ideally, we’ll have him more than ready fitness-wise.