Mike Babcock joins the Wednesday Night Hockey broadcast at Sportsnet before the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. San Jose Sharks match, discusses the return of Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri vs. Joe Thornton competition, and magical abilities Mitch Marner.
What do you expect from Auston Matthews in the first game back?
Babcock: I hope he becomes good. He has a type of injury where he is allowed to slide all the time. He had been out a long time and he worked hard for it. It doesn't always take you in the rhythm of the game, but he likes to play and we love to have it.
What's he like when he leaves? You say that he wants to come back and get frustrated. What does he like you?
Babcock: Well, I mean, fine. To be honest, more and more people are our experts and our assistant coaches handle him more because I deal with the team. Saying that, in all my conversations with him, it was clear that in the end it was enough and he wanted to leave. But it's part of the competition and I think he digs hard and works hard, and that will be seen. If you don't do work, it also shows.
What did you learn about your team with Matthews outside the line?
Babcock: I do not know if you learn a lot. I think we have a pretty good team. We haven't had Willy and Matty for a piece this season. I think it gives more opportunities for men. At first I thought when he was injured, we needed a little. We won the match when he was injured, winning 2-0 and returning and winning. And then we needed a little to go, and then we found the rhythm.
We must find a beat with him. No difference. Every time there is a change, you must get your rhythm back.
One of the sidebars for tonight's match is Nazem Kadri vs. Joe Thornton and Nazem Kadri vs. San Jose Sharks. They played it hard straight from the last final faceoff match. What do you expect tonight?
Babcock: I think there is a lot of talk about nothing. Joe Thornton starts the fight here. Let's be clear. Not often there are 190 pounds of people chasing 220 pounds of men. But Naz stood in his place. But in the last game, we basically said we were not involved and let's play the game. I think it works in our favor.
Is this the same thing tonight? There is no conversation with Nazem Kadri, just play your game? Do you have a word with Kadri?
Babcock: Don't even talk about it. Naz doesn't get too many things. Sometimes things like this will make it better, so I'm excited for it.
Mitch Marner – a lot of talk not only in Toronto but the vast league that he is in the top five in the NHL on points. When you see Mitch Marner playing now, what comes to your mind?
Babcock: I just think he is an elite player. But what I like about Mitch is he knows about winning. Not about scoring goals. It's about winning for him. He tracks harder than anyone. He can play without chips. He can play center. He can play killing penalties. He can play in power play. He made the right decision many times.
Like Morgan Rielly, he has tremendous enthusiasm and energy for the game and it makes everyone around him better.
It seems like every time he has pieces, ice appears around him. Is that an optical illusion or what did he do specifically to open the gap in the defensement?
Babcock: There are no questions about that. I thought when Pastrnak was here that night, we saw the same thing. No one else has time in the game. There is no time and no space. But when the people got it, it seemed like everyone was just backing up.
Of course, it is the edge, the brain, the ability to create space. That is called talent. They are lucky to have it.
This is the talented team that you faced tonight. If you succeed tonight, what will you do well?
Babcock: We must take care of the pieces with certainty. We have to go to D. D That, when they stand on the offensive blue line, can be very dangerous. They are a good cycle team. They are truly suitable; one of the top forechecking teams in the league. They don't give up. We have to get them. We have to do something. We have to spend time in the attack zone rolling around.