Jake Muzzin met with the media after his first practice as a Toronto Maple Leaf, where he skated on the left side on a pairing with Morgan Rielly as well as on the Leafs’ second power-play unit with Jake Gardiner in a two-defensemen setup.
Welcome to Toronto. Having played these guys this season in two tough games, what was it like to get on the ice and play with them?
Muzzin: It was a good pace out there. For not skating for a long time and to hop into that, it was a good change. A lot of skill, a lot of speed. It was an exciting practice, actually.
What are your initial impressions of Morgan Rielly?
Muzzin: Easy. Easy to play with. I mean, it’s just practice, but we talked about certain situations and some stuff like that, so it was a pretty easy practice with him.
Do you think it should come together fairly quickly for yourself and Morgan?
Muzzin: I don’t know. This is new for me. I’ve never been traded, but to be traded to a team like this with some really good players, I am hoping it is easy, yeah.
Where were you exactly when you found out about the trade?
Muzzin: I was at home. I just got back from our trip on the bye week and was just at home relaxing when I got the phone call. It was kind of an initial shock, but then things started to settle in and I just started getting ready to come here. My wife wasn’t home, so I had to tell her. That was an interesting conversation. But, like I said, once we got over the initial shock and we started talking to the Toronto organization, it made it very easy and simple for us. It is starting to settle in now and it has been a good change so far.
What do you think your biggest adjustment will be? LA kind of moved up the ice methodically. Here, they move it up quick.
Muzzin: Yeah, I don’t know. I am going to have to see how it goes. When you put a bunch of good players together, usually we can pick it up pretty good. We’ll see how it goes. I am excited. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly.
Since it is so new, what has today felt like? What is going through your mind?
Muzzin: I just got here early with Freddy and Johnny and we were just kind of hanging out, and then everyone showed up. It was kind of meet-everyone-in-a-minute. I still kind of need to get to see everyone and talk to guys. I talked to Babs and Smitty a little bit just trying to go over some of their thinking and what they want from me and all of that. It has kind of been a whirlwind of information. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, everything settles down.
Is there anyone on the roster that you knew?
Muzzin: I played in the World Cup with Johnny a little bit. I skated with Naz a little bit in the summers back in London. I kind of know those two. I played with Tyler Ennis, but he wasn’t here today. I played with him at World Championships. I played against Patty a few times in the West just from battling against him over the years. But everyone else is new. It has been awesome so far.
Morgan says he is more than comfortable on the right side. Do you prefer staying put on the left?
Muzzin: Yeah, I have played on the left pretty much my whole career, so it’s comfortable for me. I have also played with a lefty on the right for a long time, too. We’ll see what is in store for us, but if that is the way it goes, that would be a little bit more comfortable for me.
Did the coaches pick your brain on that?
Muzzin: We talked a little bit about it, but not too much yet.
What is the adjustment from a 1D power play to a 2D power play?
Muzzin: Not much. It’s just that he is a D, really. We did a little bit in LA with just the one D on top, but in previous years we’ve had two D back there a lot of times. There is not much change, no.
When you are playing with another lefty, is there anything you need to be aware of to make life easier on them?
Muzzin: For me, because I played with a lefty in Martinez for a long time in LA, there is change if you go from a righty to a lefty and where you’re passing it and where you’re leading him and where you’re not leading him. I kind of got lucky with Mo right now being a lefty.
You obviously have a championship pedigree. Are you the type or do you feel the need to lead this young group?
Muzzin: I am just going to come in and be myself. That’s all I can be. If there are certain situations where I see something that I’ve experienced or can correct, maybe then I’ll say something, but I am learning, too. I am coming into a new situation. I am going to have to be taught some stuff, too. But if there is something I see or something I have noticed that might help, I’ll pipe up and say something. For now, I am just going to learn and try to be myself, really.
What stood out about the Leafs in the couple of games they played you this year?
Muzzin: The first game in LA, I remember we gave them a couple of power plays early and it was like, “bing, bang, boom, goal.” I was like, “Okay, they’ve got a good power play.” They’re a fast, skilled team. Good goaltending. Good D. I am excited to be here.
Morgan Rielly on the addition of Jake Muzzin
On shifting to the right side and if there is an adjustment involved:
I don’t really think there is…. When me and Ron were together, I’d often times end up on that side anyways. It’s just a matter of being comfortable with your partner, talking lots, and making sure you know what the deal is. Over time, we’ll smooth it out. I am sure it might take a game or two, but that is expected.
On what the Leafs have acquired in Muzzin:
He is a big guy who moves very well for his size. Great shot. Great first pass. A prototypical d-man that you want to be playing with and want on your team, so it’s a big addition. He is a guy that brings a lot to this team, so we are pretty lucky.
On the message from management with the new addition:
I think it’s pretty clear. It’s a move that is trying to make our team better. The goal is to win. We had confidence in this group going into the break, and I think we add a player like that and it just adds to it even more. The message that has been sent is pretty clear. It is an opportunity for this team to prove that we are up to the challenge and we can get rolling here.