As day two wrapped up in South Florida, the Maple Leafs strategy going in the 2015 NHL Draft became quite clear…Skill and character are going to shape the team going forward.
In the past, size had been a determining factor for Leafs drafts. This year, six of Toronto’s first seven picks registered at heights under six feet. It’s a significant departure from Leafs drafts of the past.
“He loves skill, he can’t help himself but he loves skill,” said Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock of Leafs Co-Interim General Manager Mark Hunter.
Skill ranks high, but being of the right type of character is a close second, as Babcock gave a bit of a peak into what he’s looking for in his team.
“The number one characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period. If you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here. So, anything that has been going on is going to get cleaned up and be fit-fit team. A team that comes to the media every day after a win, after a loss, after a practice and own their own stuff.”
It’s the first time we heard from the coach since he was hired in late May. Since that time he’s had a busier spring than he is used to. As much as that was a message to some of the newer players, exiting players are also being put on notice. Their experience here in Toronto is about to change.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m real proud to be here. We have a massive job, I wake up scared every day and thrilled to be doing the work,” said Babcock. “It’s a big job. I love waterskiing and hanging out at the lake. But I’m in the office so it’s a little bit different for me. The off-ice product has to be so good that the on-ice product will follow that.”
Babcock said he has had a chance to talk with all of his players at least one time since his arrival. It’s become quite clear that Babcock intends to take players out of their comfort zone.
Given the eight-year commitment that was made by the organization, both the team and Babcock understand that the desired results won’t come overnight.
“Right now we’re not going to be the most talented group, but I don’t have a problem with that. We’re going to walk out every day with our head held high because we’re going to compete. We’re going to practice that way, train that way, we’re going to eat that way, we’re going to sleep that way. We’re going to be Maple Leafs.”
The Leafs were busy making use of their picks and also pulling the trigger on a trade. The Leafs acquired defenceman Martin Marincin from the Oilers in exchange for 107th pick in the draft and forward Brad Ross.