Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Wednesday, discussing the shake up of the power play units, William Nylander blocking out the noise in the market, the return of Zach Hyman, an update on Frederik Andersen, and more.
Looks like the Leafs have decided to change their power play after all.
New units today:
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) January 9, 2019
There is so much skill on this club, and you get one of the ultimate role players back in Zach Hyman tomorrow night. How important is his role amongst all the skill that this club has?
Babcock: I think huge. He’s just got different kinds of skill. He’s got the skill to be able to get the puck back, get to the net, play with good players, penalty kill, take right-hand faceoffs. I think those things are important for us. Obviously, we’ve missed him. He’s been out long enough that it’s going to take him a little bit to get his hands back, but we’re excited to have him, obviously. It makes us a deeper team.
Nashville was a patient team waiting for their chances. Is patience going to be more important for the team as the season goes on?
Babcock: I think so for sure. I also thought we had a lot of opportunity early in the game. In the end, we got three posts and missed an empty net, but we didn’t score. When we came out for the third period, we lost our patience. They even got better then. They dominated the third period. We didn’t generate anything being foolish with the puck. I think it is a good lesson for us there.
I like Nashville and the way they played. I thought they were dialled in. They played hard. We had our opportunities early. We didn’t look after it and we didn’t score. In the end, they got us.
What was the thinking behind the change with the power play units?
Babcock: Well, it wasn’t going the way we wanted it to. When you’ve got total one group, you don’t have as much competition on your team. I still like when you have two and you compete to see who is out there. We are going to make a change here and see how it goes. We’ll go from there. We can always change back at any time.
William Nylander said he can feel his confidence growing. What is going to be the key for him to get all the way back?
Babcock: I only know one way and that is work. He’s just got to go to work every single day and put your work boots on. When it is going real good, you work hard every day because you want to keep it going. When it’s not going good, you want to work real hard because you’ve got to get her going. It’s simple: Work.
Toronto is a market where if things aren’t going well, you can find yourself under the microscope. A lot of people have opinions. For a guy like William, how imperative is it just to block out the white noise?
Babcock: You heard that? The reason we’re so fortunate here is because we have all that. We have all you people covering it so we have the fan base that we have. That is the greatest thing about being here. It makes it the greatest hockey market in the world. In saying all of that, when you decide you want to play here, you take the good with the bad. Sometimes the bad is they’re pointing out what you’re doing. That’s what the country music channel is for and the hunting channel. Wild TV, 393. It’s dialled in. They never talk about hockey once. It’s unbelievable. Honest to God. Beautiful animals, mountains. Hiking, fishing. A thing of beauty.
Jake played a little center in high school. Is that part of the post-practice fun we saw here today?
Babcock: I think it was more of saying, “Naz, pick it up in the face-off circle,” is what I think it was from the D. A little battle. I think Naz won out in the end. The rumour is that the coach dropping the puck changes the D and he might’ve been sliding it on the side of the circle. I don’t know. I was just watching. I don’t know what happened there. Anything else?
Frederik Andersen says he can’t go until Saturday. What does that do for tomorrow’s start?
Babcock: Hutch will go and then I don’t think Freddy will be going to Colorado from what I hear. We’ll just see. He’s got to get ready and you’ve got to be ready to stop the puck when you go in.
When you look at power play success, how much is it scheme and how much is it players being creative?
Babcock: I think your scheme in everything you do is real important. That frees up the players to be creative. If you are not organized and you don’t have good structure, they can’t be creative because they don’t know what each other is supposed to do. But what it is supposed to do with the organization is give the good players more room. I just think it ebbs and flows a little bit, but the number one thing is you’ve got four penalty killers out there and they get paid to work hard. The other guys have got to work harder. You’ve got to outwork the penalty kill. If you don’t, you don’t score.
How pleased are you with your fourth line that you can trust them out there against anyone?
Babcock: I think they’ve been good. I actually think they’re really coming. Both Lindy and Goat… I actually thought — I didn’t play them as much last game — they were our second best line in the game. Because they don’t score as much as those guys… I should’ve played them more. But that’s hindsight is beautiful.
Who is backing up tomorrow night?
Babcock: That’s a good question. Sparks hasn’t been cleared, so I’d imagine Kas is getting a recall.