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Babcock: We're embarking on a journey

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs


Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock joined both TSN 1050 (listen) and Sportsnet 590 The FAN (listen) in Toronto on Tuesday morning. The Leafs' new bench boss hopped on to talk about the club's upcoming training camp and exhibition season.

While there's always excitement around Maple Leafs camp, 2015's training camp carries extra intrigue. The Leafs boast a new management group looking from above and a new coaching staff at ice level. With that in mind, fans and pundits are monitoring the coming weeks even more closely than usual. In the NHL's most attentive market, that's no small task.

For Babcock, the club's off-ice movement will lay a steady foundation into the future. The people who will shape the values and play of the club are in place. Now, the focus is on crafting a team to match those ambitions.

"I think the biggest thing that has happened here is the building of a management team, the building of an off-ice management group... Putting together those people that are quality, good people that are going to work hard and set an example and give stability to the organization," said Babcock. "The next step is to get on with fixing our on-ice product. I think we've had a real good summer off the ice. Now we have to start our journey on the ice."

"We're going to try to be the best we can possibly be and give our fans something we can be excited about."

An area of focus for the team heading forward will be the idea of the process. The process away from the rink, the process in the weight room, the process in-game — every facet of life as a Maple Leaf. The 2015-16 season will begin a redefinition of what it means to be a Maple Leaf from what it has meant in recent, lean years.

That journey will begin for the staff and players on Sept. 17 when the team opens camp ahead of its 99th season.

"I'm looking for authentic people that bring it every single day. We're going to end up with a good group of that. Is it going to take time? Sure it's going to take time. Are we all going to learn from one another? Absolutely," said Babcock. "I think it's an exciting time here and we're in a process and I think the journey is always the most fun any way. We're embarking on one of those."

It's certainly no secret that a new era has begun in Toronto but, on a more personal level, it's a new era for Babcock as a coach as well.

For 10 season he had cemented himself as the face behind the Detroit Red Wings bench after two seasons in Anaheim. Hockey fans came to know him better at a pair of Olympics in 2010 and 2014 when he coached Canada to gold medals.

His arrival in Toronto marks a fresh page in his story and another challenge he is aiming to conquer.

"You believe you can disarm the bomb — that's how you have to think. If you think you can, you can," said Babcock. "Every day I get up and I'm pumped up, I'm ready to go. Is there going to be some tough time here? No question. Are we going to have a good time doing it? Absolutely, and I'm very excited."

The Maple Leafs' coach will now seek to get to know the players who will serve as his pupils for the 2015-16 season. He has spoken with every player individually and seen many around the team's facilities but hasn't had the opportunity to work with them on the ice quite yet. That will change in a little over a week's time. Leading up to that first day and throughout the season, his message will remain straightforward for the group.

"My expectation is simple: Get better each day, compete hard and when you walk out of the rink each day hold your head high because you competed at the highest level."

It will be difficult for the coach and his staff to put tangible expectation on the season in front of them for a while yet. Results come from play on the ice and they are working to have a better grasp on their personnel. The work to bring the franchise back to what Babcock believes is its "rightful place in the National League" begins in a matter of days.

The message to those who will be carefully watching every step as it unfolds?

"I think it's real simple — just be patient. It's going to happen."

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