Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spoke to the media today after being unveiled as Canada's head coach at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He spoke about the tournament prior to addressing the Leafs with those in attendance. Here's what he had to say...
On Team Canada...
Hello, everyone. Thanks Tom [Renney], Army [Doug Armstrong]. Obviously this is a huge opportunity for myself, I feel very, very blessed here to have the opportunity to represent Canada. I thought a lot about whether it was '97 for the World Juniors or '04 for the World Championships or '10 or '14 for the Olympics, it's always been a thrill. I always think as a kid from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to get this kind of opportunity to represent your country, you do it with immense pride. It also comes, when you get a chance to represent Canada, it comes with obligation as well. If you want to say you're the best and hockey is your game, you have to do something about it at these events. It's always a thrill to be around the best players in the world and compete against the best, against the best coaches. To compete and learn from the best athletes and the best coaches and the best management team. So, obviously it's going to be a lot of fun and a great learning experience for me. I want to thank the coaches for joining in obviously -- Q [Joel Quenneville] and Trotzy [Barry Trotz] and Claude [Julien] and Bill [Peters] -- for their commitment and time and effort they're going to have to put in to get us up and running so we're ready to go in September. Thank you all for coming here today. Thank you for this opportunity guys, I look forward to having a lot of fun with it.
On the opportunity to win gold vs. the fear of not winning:
I don't know, I don't even think about that. What I think about is process and I think about the people and the players and the opportunity to grow and get better. To challenge yourself. Obviously I believe in hockey, I believe in the game, I believe in Canada and I think it's important we continue to do everything we can to stay on top. I like being a part of it. When they asked me, obviously I was thrilled. There are a number of guys they could have asked and when they asked me I was thrilled to have the opportunity and the challenge. The challenge is exciting.
What aspects of the coaching staff make you better given the task at hand?
When you just go through the guys, Q has done a ton of winning and, being around him, I've known Q for a long time and so he's going to run our back end behind the bench. Claude was with me at the last Olympics and had a lot of success. Trotzy I haven't worked with in the past but I know he's done a great job in the National League, been around a lot, they're going to share the specialty teams. Bill Peters is going to join our staff, he's the only guy who has been an assistant in the last 100 years and you need someone to know where to put the pucks -- I'm just kidding you there. That's part of that but he's going to do the pre-scouts for us, I know him real good, he's been around a lot so he can help in that area. We're going to have a great staff but so will all the other teams and they're all going to have great players. I think we just think because we put on the uniform in Canada we're going to win but it doesn't work like that. The preparation has got to be equal to the opportunity. I've never got involved in a World Cup before. It looks like an unbelievable event and you feel special and blessed to be asked.
What do you teach players of this calibre?
I think what you do is you always ask in any team event, you ask the guys to find their game within the team game you come up with that's going to suit the group the best. You try to teach what you're doing -- whether it be special teams, a forecheck, a neutral zone or a D zone -- what you're doing and what you expect as quick as you possibly can in a manner so they can understand. Obviously the quicker you can do that the better off you are. In the end, the best players don't win, the best team wins. That's just the way it is. That's the way it is in the National Hockey League as well. You need a certain amount of skill, there's no question about it, but we're fortunate in Canada to have that.
When you look at your international experience, what stands out as the highlight?
They're all very, very special to say the least. The Olympic games in Canada, I don't think anything can touch that. To be able to share that with your family and Canadians and, in the end, go through the process and be able to come out on top was very, very special. You know, when you look back at all these events, when they ask you, initially you say yes and then you go, 'Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?' It's the same every single time. These things aren't easy but you believe in the process, you believe in yourself, you believe in your staff and your players and you find a way to get it done. That's what we have to do.
Do you have a particular approach for assembling a team like this?
Skill and hockey sense and work ethic and competitiveness. The best players are coming.
How important is simplicity and clarity from a coach in a tournament like this?
I think that's important in anything in life. The people that do that and that teach the best and explain it the best so they understand why and what they're doing and where they're going, I think it helps them. I've been fortunate enough to be around great players, you just mentioned two of them [Jonathan Toews and Carey Price], they're fantastic people that get better at every single event and they raise their level in the biggest events. This is something I'm excited for the opportunity. It's always easy to say, 'Hey I'm not going this time, I've done it.' But, to me, any time you get to represent your country, why wouldn't you?
How much extra work do you have to do with your Leaf assistants with training camp for them going simultaneously?
I think that'll be a great experience for them and for us. One thing about getting involved at Hockey Canada, it makes you work all summer. There's no question about it. It's like taking your summer and throwing it out the window. What you do with the preparation you do for the World Cup, you're doing the same for the Leafs. So, in the end, the Leafs are benefiting. When you get to know good players and you're around good players and good management people and you're getting better yourself, you're simply helping your own organization. I know it was always positive for Detroit or Spokane or -- wherever the heck I was -- Anaheim, when I was involved in the past. It'll be the same for the Leafs.
Do you expect a difference between this World Cup and the experience at the Olympics?
I don't know the answer to that question. Obviously it's best on best just like it was last time. This is more controlled by the National Hockey League obviously but, to me, it comes down to competition. It's hockey and it's going to be played NHL rules and NHL buildings and something we're all comfortable with. I'm excited about our staff, I think we've got a real good staff and I'm excited about the players that Army and Tom have proposed thus far. We'll go through and continue to watch and then we'll decide who's on the team.
On the Leafs...
What's your goaltending plan for the weekend?
We've got a game tomorrow and we're just going to stay as we are.
How do you manage days off now as opposed to 5-10 years ago with new sports science?
Obviously you get sports science as involved as you possibly can and I always gathered all the information to try to do the right thing. Energy is real important, rest is a weapon but so is keeping the motor running and skating and getting better. So, we chose today to get better through our video process, through individual meetings, through our strength training and we stayed off the ice. We hope they have good energy. I think we have three in four if I'm not mistaken but I know we've got a game tomorrow.
Is it something you sense or schedule based?
Schedule is real important but you try to get a feel for them as well. That's a big part of it.
Can you break down Leo Komarov's success to hard work?
Well he has been impressive to say the least. 10 finished checks last night, he's on the board all the time, he's working hard, he gets the puck back for Naz. He plays with or without it, we play him on the power play, he's a good penalty killer, we haven't used him as much on the kill just because we're trying some other guys but he's been an important part for us. I think one of the brightest lights in the early going for us.
What does Corrado have to do to get in?
That's a really good question, I don't have the answer to that yet. I'm going to talk to Lou today or tomorrow morning just about the process we're in there.
What's the latest on Bernier?
He's going to skate with the goalies tomorrow.