Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Monday, discussing William Nylander’s recent play and whether he’ll be a center long-term, Mitch Marner’s run of poor puck luck, the team’s trip to Sick Kids, and more.
How vital are two days of practice after basically being on the road for two weeks?
Babcock: Obviously, it’s important. I think we have just three home games here in a long time. We’ve got to do a better job at home. Helped get some of the jet lag out here today. It’s a long trip. But we should be energized and ready good to go in time to see Calgary.
Is the approach at home any different than what you do on the road, Mike?
Babcock: Yeah, it’s the same. Sometimes, though, you get a little cuter at home. Cute doesn’t win a whole lot of hockey games — at least, a whole lot of turnovers [doesn’t]. We’ve got to do a better job here at home and get ourselves re-established. We should be a dominant, dominant home team.
Mitch Marner was saying he doesn’t feel like he’s getting much puck luck these days. How do you think he’s responded to being a bit snakebitten?
Babcock: Well, I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in preparation. When you do enough work, you get lucky. To me, worry about things you can control. You can control your work ethic and just get to work.
William Nylander just a placeholder in the middle today, or?
Babcock: Obviously, it’s something… who knows. If we’ve got to use him, we’ll maybe try him there. Trying to catch Willy, trying to catch Mitch, trying to catch all of those young guys being good. When you play center, you’re often caught being bad. I don’t really need to catch him doing that, so that’s why he isn’t there.
Do you see him as a center long-term?
Babcock: I don’t know. I’m just trying to win the game against Calgary. We’ll just go from there.
Ron Hainsey has had such a tremendous impact penalty killing, but with the amount that you’ve had to use him in that regard, are you concerned — as the year wears on — about the amount of time he spends killing penalties and if it might start to catch up to him a little bit?
Babcock: No. I think he’s only playing 22 minutes a night, or something like that. So it’s easy. I guarantee Hains doesn’t want to play less. I think, with Polie back in the lineup, that will slow down anyway. But he’s an effective penalty killer and we are not taking a ton of penalties anyway, so we don’t have that many [penalty kills] in the games.
Was it his penalty killing ability that mainly precipitated Polak getting back into the lineup?
Babcock: All we do is put the players in and if everything goes good and you keep playing good, you just keep playing. If not and you need a change, you put a guy in. If he does a good job, he’s in. Polie is a big, heavy guy. He plays safe and the coach plays him. That is a big part of it, too. If you feel safe with a guy out on the ice and you’re willing to play him, a guy is more likely to play.
What did William Nylander show you in this last bit of the road trip? What made him effective in Edmonton and Vancouver?
Babcock: He just competed. He worked hard and he competed. You know, everyone is all fired up about what line you’re on all the time. If you’re in the lineup, you’re getting a chance that night. You do good things, usually the coach isn’t that dumb and he figures it out and plays the guys that are playing the best. Like, Brownie — we can talk about that. What line is Brownie on? I don’t know what line he is. I just know he play lots all the time.
What do you think about the trip like the one to Sick Kids Hospital for not only the kids there but the players in the room as well?
Babcock: I think it’s really important for both. I think it’s important. When you’re blessed to play in the NHL and get a little notoriety and all of that and you have a chance to make other people’s lives better by giving back, I think you should. I think it’s important for each guy to give back in the community and get involved in his own way — individually as well as when you’re involved with the team. I think it’s a great day for our players, a great day for the staff there. The staff there… I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Sick Kids, but if you haven’t, it’s a place you should go see and see the magic that happens there. It is an absolute magical place with magical people and it makes you feel great to go there. It’s an important thing.
The parents love it, too. The biggest smile might be from them.
Babcock: Well, I just know, by being around a lot of cancer [stricken] kids over the years, that when one of your kids gets cancer or someone in your family gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. When you think about it, if one of your kids is sick or in the hospital, the whole family is in the hospital. I think it’s real important, obviously, that we find a way — whether it’s individually or collectively — for us to get involved in this community like we should.