Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Friday, discussing the team’s need to find balanced scoring, his coaching style, John Tavares’ first month and a half as a Leaf, and much more.
How is your team feeling after not getting the bounces last night, your top-end guys in particular?
Babcock: I think our group feels pretty good today because we played well. When you don’t play well, and you suck, you leave the rink and you feel bad. When you play good, it sometimes doesn’t go your way, but if you do it right…
We probably stole a game we didn’t deserve to win earlier. I liked what we did. I liked how hard we played. I liked how we limited their opportunities. I thought we had a real good start; we didn’t score, but we had a real good start.
We’ve got to find ways to win games. But to me, just stay with the process. Keep doing good things and good things will happen to you. Let’s get to work and play a good Pittsburgh team. We’re excited to play.
What is or isn’t happening in the attack that was earlier in the year?
Babcock: The puck just went in every time, and we scored on every power play. We scored on the power play last night at 6-on-4 at the end. We had great looks last night on the power play. We hit the post a couple times. We shot it through his feet a couple times. Those ones went in [before].
But it was also earlier. Dallas is a good team. They came here, tried hard, worked hard. Somebody asked me about parity in the league last night — I think that’s how it is.
We also, obviously, are looking for more balance in our scoring. We think we are going to get that because some of those guys that weren’t getting chances are getting chances. Patty Marleau had a chance for four last night and got one. Ideally, we get him off the schneid and get him going.
I think those are all positive signs.
Did you hear what Henrik Zetterberg said about you in Detroit? He said, “He found a way to push me into a, ‘I’m going to show you,’ kind of thing.” Why do you go with that style of coaching?
Babcock: I don’t think I do, actually. But what I would tell you is… I wasn’t involved in the conversations. I have a reporter who read something and gave it to me. If Z was here, I could answer the question.
He said you had a good relationship.
Babcock: We had a real good relationship, but I am not going to speculate on that. What we try to be here is we try to be non-combative. What do I mean by that? We try to build relationships with our guys and we try to almost end up in a contract where you’re going to push them to be the best they can be. But it’s their idea. What do you need to get better at? You gather the information for them and you tell them what you think they need to get better at, and then you work together and try to get better at that.
I remember Z getting mad at me a few times. I also remember Z putting his name on the Cup for the rest of his life.
Is that possibly more difficult with younger guys who haven’t had that before they got here?
Babcock: No, I think most of these young guys have had more of that than you think. I don’t think there are many guys here, to be honest with you, that don’t want to get better. If you went to each guy here, they want to get better. Every guy on the team wants more ice time. Every guy on the team wants to score more goals and have more pluses and be more important. I think we talk about that individually with them on a regular basis. Our job is to help them get better. But no one loves our players more than us — period.
After a month and a half here now with John Tavares, what value has he brought? How important has he been, especially around the young guys?
Babcock: I think he’s been outstanding. I think all of these deals you make are the test of time, not the test of a week. I think probably there have been a lot of adjustments just from moving to different players and different coaches — all of those things — and [the media]. There are lots of things, but I think he’s been great.
I thought he played a real good game for us last night and was real solid. The puck never went in for him, but I think he was really good and really effective. We just have to keep him going in the right direction and feeling good.
Over the course of your time with Nazem Kadri here with the Maple Leafs, what would you say about his desire to take, listen, and heed the advice that is given to him?
Babcock: I think Naz has gotten a lot better. Naz is a guy who loves hockey and loves being around the guys. He is a competitor. At game time, he is usually very competitive. Has he got a ways to go? Absolutely.
I met with him today. I talk to Naz on a regular basis about what he needs to do and usually we are in agreement. Very seldom with one of these guys do you disagree with them. Sometimes you go about it differently or they might go about it differently than you want, but I think Naz has done a good job for us.