Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing the return of Zach Hyman, the loss of Mitch Marner, the decision to swap out Michael Hutchinson for Kasimir Kaskisuo, and the firing of Don Cherry.
How does the team fill the void with Mitch Marner being out definitively for four weeks?
Babcock: Other people will get an opportunity. We’ve got to figure it out as a coaching staff and them as players to figure out who plays with who to help the group be the best it can be. Hyman arrived back today. We brought Petan back. We’ll take a look and try to get the group to be set up the best way we can to have success.
What is the realistic expectation for Zach Hyman coming back tomorrow night?
Babcock: That’s a good question. He just works, right? He works like a dog. Can he get on the forecheck and do that and get us the puck back like he always does? I don’t know the answer to that for sure. What help can he be in the right faceoff circle on the penalty kill? I don’t know that, either. I am going to watch just like you and we are going to figure it out.
How do you think John Tavares has to adapt without Mitch?
Babcock: I just think we’ve got to find people to help him. That line hasn’t been a line this year. I don’t think that’s fair. The second thing is we’ve got to find out a way for all of those guys to be productive. That is their job. That is why we are 20 games in and we are still searching. We thought we were still going to have something worked out by today. It’s not worked out, so we’ll figure something else out.
What ultimately led to the decision to bring Kasimir Kaskisuo up?
Babcock: Well, obviously, we weren’t doing a very good job. Hutchinson is a good man and a good person and tried hard. We didn’t play good enough.
Is the plan for Kaskisuo the same — he gets the second of back-to-backs?
Your reaction to Don Cherry’s comments and the fact that he was fired yesterday?
Babcock: I haven’t spent a whole lot of time looking at it. I just know that when you are in our situation like I am and you get to speak every day, you’ve got to be mindful of how great the game is and what the game is all about and bringing people together. There is no question about that. It’s got to be tough for him and his family. In saying all of that, there are certain things that are just right.
Practice Quotes: Kasimir Kaskisuo, Mitch Marner, John Tavares
John Tavares on getting Zach Hyman back on his line:
His work ethic, his consistency, and the things he does well on both sides of the puck and around the net — he is just so reliable and wins so many battles. He plays so hard. He is a great guy for what he brings on the ice but also just that tone and standard he sets within our locker room.
Tavares on whether the team let Michael Hutchinson down:
Absolutely. We have to own that and feel that. We just did not play very well and didn’t give him much of an opportunity to get some good results and feel better about himself. I certainly think his work ethic, the type of teammate he is, and certainly the way he played — he made some key saves and gave us a chance to win many of the games he played in. We just didn’t reward him. We should feel that for sure.
Mitch Marner on his high ankle sprain:
When I fell, right away I felt something funny… I felt a snap kind of in my ankle. To be honest, at that time, I was ready to look back and kind of see my ankle twisted the wrong way. I looked back and it looked like it was good. I tried to get back up on it, and it just felt a little weird. I just got back to the bench. I was ready for something worse than what the actual injury was. There are always positives you can look to.
It felt good on the bench, and then I went out for that power play. I tried to keep the puck in and fell again on it. It just didn’t feel right again. I went into the room, got it taped up, and did a bunch of mobility things that I felt pretty good with. I came back out for the TV timeout and was trying it. It felt pretty good. A couple of turns just felt awkward. That was when the trainers realized I was in an uncomfortable situation. They called it and said I should probably take the rest of the night off and see what happens tomorrow. You’ve got to trust their opinion on that.
Marner on his time on the shelf:
I think you just take a lot of time for yourself in the gym. You just try to get stronger. It’s something I can definitely work on — to get stronger and make my shot better for when I get back and try to be more lethal when I get in the zone.
The goal is to see on Friday and hopefully get [the cast] off on Friday. We’ll see what the trainers say and hopefully this week goes well. We’ll try to get it off by Friday and try to get it moving; try to get in the pool and get some mobility in it.
Kasimir Kaskisuo on receiving the news of his callup:
Pretty crazy. Kind of the day went in a blur. It’s a pretty happy day for myself and my family. It was crazy. I’m really, really excited.
Kaskisuo on his confidence level:
Very good since the halfway point of last year. Just kind of getting on a roll, I was able to stick with it to start this year. This is now a step up. I get to see a little bit different kind of shots in practice. I am just trying to get better every day, work hard, and be ready.