TORONTO – It was just one pre-season game, but there were some positive signs of what the Leafs can do if they play the right system.
In his first game (albeit a pre-season one) as head coach of the Maple Leafs, there was barely a moment where Mike Babcock was quiet on the bench.
It was deliberate, and it wasn’t a good or bad sign of how the team was playing. It was necessary.
“I think when you first go some place, and you want them to do things a certain way, you're going to do a lot more talking for a long period of time, more than you have in the past,” said Babcock following a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The instruction was welcomed for Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who saw time with familiar linemate Tyler Bozak and prospect Connor Brown.
“Yeah that’s good at this time of year,” said van Riemsdyk. “We’re all trying to pick up the systems as quickly as possible and that reassurance you get from him when you do something right or do something wrong is a good thing at this time of year, for sure.”
Quick to make a good impression were the newcomers. In addition to a goal from Nick Spaling, P-A Parenteau scored twice.
“It’s always pretty tough especially after first three days in Halifax. But I’m pretty happy with the way the boys responded tonight,” said Parenteau. “The guys were excited to make a first good impression and I think it showed tonight.”
It’s clear that Babcock is going to be very vocal on the bench. If he doesn’t like what you are doing, he will let you know about it. If he likes what you are doing, he will let you know about it.
“It’s really intense but it keeps your head in it the whole time,” said Parenteau of Babcock’s style. “He’s well aware of what’s going on out there and I think it’s good for all the young guys that we have and even for us, the veteran, it’s a good way to coach and I really like it.”
Jonathan Bernier made 28 saves for the win, and was told by Babcock that the style will allow for him to have a chance to succeed.
“Definitely our stick on puck was awesome tonight in the defensive zone, and our backcheck didn't have much time to make plays with the puck,” said Bernier. “I think that was the biggest thing I saw.”
It’s one game, but the tone has been set.