Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Friday, discussing John Tavares’ potential return in the next few games, Trevor Moore joining the line with Tavares and Mitch Marner in practice, Jake Muzzin’s status, and the need for his team to develop a game they can “hang their hat on.”
Lines at Leafs practice
Johnsson – Matthews – Nylander
Moore – Tavares – Marner
Mikheyev – Kerfoot – Kapanen
Timashov – Shore – 🐐
Rielly – Ceci
Marincin – Barrie
Dermott – Holl
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 1, 2019
The opportunity to possibly get John Tavares back tomorrow night — beyond just the power play, emotionally, what does it mean to your hockey club?
Babcock: Obviously, it makes us a better team. Having the two centers, plus the man in the middle on our power play… It hasn’t been a left-hand shot. We are not keeping anybody off Matty that way. That would make a huge difference to us, too, plus it gives us a second group on the power play because then Willy is with that group. It gets that group going.
All in all, it’d be a huge plus. It is what it is, though.
Will Muzzin be available tomorrow?
Babcock: Personal day.
How do you assess the first month for the team overall?
Babcock: I’d like us to be better. In saying all of that, though — when we made all the transition this summer, I don’t think I’m surprised. That doesn’t mean you plan for that. You always plan like you’re going to win every day. That is what you do. You try to get better. I think we’ve gotten a lot better. We are not where we need to be. We need to get healthy. We need to get playing at a high level. I think our schedule is set up good for us now — I really do. Now we’ve got to get some traction.
We’ve got to know what we are. We’ve got to know what we hang our hat on.
What do you think you hang your hat on right now?
Babcock: Nothing. We’re still trying to figure it out. That is what I am saying to you. Normally, after 20 games, what you try to do is you try to get out in the first 20 and you try to get yourself established. You know what you are. You also want to be in a good position so you aren’t under duress. We are in a situation after 14 games where we’ve got six more here and we’ve got to find a game that we can bottle or that is our formula, where we can say, “This is what we do,” and do it every day, so that when we say, “This is what we do,” we know what we do.
What do you think that looks like?
Babcock: We are going to work at it.
Are you going to get Zach Hyman back in that six-game frame and is he a big part of it?
Babcock: Well, a huge part. Anybody who… Even the people that aren’t fans, are now fans.
Do you like what Trevor Moore brings to that top line with the heavy lifting and the lunch-pail that he brings?
Babcock: Obviously, everybody is always a better player when they are in the right slot. When injuries happen, other people get opportunity. Mooresy has done a good job and he has been at the net and he’s gotten pucks back. Obviously, Hyman is the best there is in hockey at that. But here is an opportunity for him and he’s earned it. It’s not like we just fired him in there. He’s earned it.
Do you expect when John Tavares does return, there won’t be much rust because he’s been able to do a lot while he has been out?
Babcock: We sure expect that.
Is Jake Muzzin going to travel with you guys today?
Babcock: Muzzin is not, no.
On the loss of former Leafs GM Jim Gregory, who passed away on Wednesday:
Babcock: Let’s talk about Mr. Gregory. Unbelievable human being. Obviously, a hockey Hall of Famer and we all know all of that stuff. But a family man. A husband. A grandfather. A dad. A guy when you saw him — I’d catch him in the parking lot or at the rink in the stands — and you’d walk up and what a conversation you’d have every time. He just made you feel good. He made people feel good. He loved the game. He loved being around. He was a kind, kind soul. He’ll be really missed. Our thoughts and prayers obviously go out to his family. We’re thinking of them.