Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Monday in Los Angeles, addressing the ongoing William Nylander situation, Auston Matthews joining the team in California, and more.
December 1st is coming up quickly. When you think big picture with this team, is it thinking at all about Willy and his situation?
Babcock: To be honest with you, I don’t know much about the situation. Obviously, Kyle and [Brandon Pridham] and him will work that out. Obviously, we want Willy on the team. We want Matty to be playing every night and Willy to be playing every night. When you go around the league and you play against good teams, it really shows when you’re not quite as deep as you could be.
We like our whole group. We think Willy is a good kid. But this is the business side of the game. As a coach, I just coach the players they got.
Last month, you’d pepper in some comments, “We’ll look this way or that way when we get everybody here.” You haven’t said that often lately.
Babcock: Okay, so here — I’ll say it right now: We’ll look better when he’s here.
How well do you think you’ve managed those absences so far?
Babcock: I don’t want to think about the absences. You think about who is playing. There is no sense worrying about Matty or Willy when they’re not here. There is nothing you can do about them. You wish they were playing? Sure you do. But you do that any time someone gets injured.
Why is it valuable, do you think, for Auston to be here during this trip skating?
Babcock: If you’re a married guy and you’ve got three kids and you can be at home with your family and skate at home, why wouldn’t you do that? If you’re sitting and you’re a young guy sitting in Toronto in your condo, what do you do? I mean, these are your buddies. This is what you do. Why wouldn’t you hang out with your guys? I think mental health is so important in getting better as well as the physical part.
Is he still on target? It was a minimum four weeks and we’re about halfway through.
Babcock: I didn’t ask. I just told them there today — he got on the ice and I said, “Buckle up, join the drill!” And then I noticed the dog collar got on him and they pulled him right next to the bench and they said, “No chance.”
Morgan has always had the offensive side. Defensively, still room to grow. Where can he improve from a defensive perspective?
Babcock: Just his ability to read everything and understand what is going on. I think that is a huge part of Hainsey’s job — to help him with that. I think he’s made great strides. We think he is a real good player, obviously. He has got that same energy a guy like Marner has. They’ve got unbelievable energy and it transfers through the team. We think that is important.
Mitch Marner on William Nylander’s absence and the possibility he could go past the December 1st deadline unsigned:
It sucks thinking about it. It’s his agent and his decision. It’s a life decision for him, so he has to make what he thinks is a reasonable choice.
We miss him. He is a big part of this team. I’ve said it before — he’s a big part of our offense. You miss him every time out on the ice. But it’s a life decision and he is going to make the right one.
Kasperi Kapanen on his reaction to a contractual impasse like this lasting so long into the season:
To be honest, I have never seen this before, but he has got to do what he’s got to do. I don’t know what to think about it. They’re for sure trying to figure something out now.
Nazem Kadri on Nylander’s absence and the blow it would be to the team for him to sit out the season:
He’s a great player. It would be [a big blow]. I think Willy can come in and be an impact player, but that being said, that is him and his family and his agent’s decision and that’s in his hands. For us, we’re just trying to hold the fort down while we can.
Kadri on Kasperi Kapanen’s development into an impact player in the NHL:
He’s just maturing and developing as a hockey player and understanding how he needs to play to be successful in the NHL. He’s being guided with some players that he has some chemistry with. He has put it all together. Kappy works hard. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.
Morgan Rielly on what he admires about Drew Doughty’s game:
His skating. He works hard out there. He is going up and down the ice a lot and never seems to get tired. Great skater. A natural. He pivots well. He does more than just that, but that is what really stands out to me.