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Mike Babcock - 1.20.2016

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs



Here's what Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say after Wednesday's practice...

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Has there been a philosophy that you've preached and your centres have bought into and made them better?

I don't know about that, we asked them to play a certain way. We try to make them better every day. We try to help them be better and be better players and have the puck more. We've pretty much built a foundation or stuck to a foundation that we introduced at camp. Just because you introduce it at camp with a new group doesn't mean they get it. It takes a long time to get it but I think we've had real good growth in Naz and in Bozak. They're playing better without the puck and so they have the puck more.

Is Polak a guy you know you're going to get 100 per cent out of every day?

Yeah, he's a man, zero maintenance. You look at Hunwick and Leo, they're zero maintenance every day, they do it right every day, they're ultra competitive. You've got to have real good people on your team to make the young people better. I don't have any time for the rumours because I don't follow them and I don't read them or write them, but I talk to Lou and Shanny and Kyle and we know what we're doing. That's all I got.

Could Polak play his way into the long term future plans?

The big thing is we're going to do whatever is right for our hockey team. I don't want to speculate on any of that or lead you down the garden path in any way. That's up for you guys to create rumours and it's up to me to not.

Is Dion asserting himself physically more often this year?

I couldn't tell you. I haven't been here in the past so I don't know much about it. I thought they were running our show last night -- not so much in a physical standpoint but they beat us to every loose puck and were on us and we couldn't handle them at all early. That was, I thought, a momentum changer in the game and we got going from there and I thought we were much better. I don't think you can ask people to do things they're not capable of doing, but I think part of leadership is doing what's needed. I thought he was excellent last night.

Did you see the McGrattan fight in the AHL last night?

Yeah, I did. It's awful. You hate to see people get hurt. I did a fair bit of that myself when I was a junior player. I've seen it a lot, I've had lots of tough teams over the years. I like guys that can look after themselves, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch. I've heard his statement about he'll be back. He knows his job and how he's going to play, I understand all of those things. That doesn't mean it's any easier for people to understand and for hockey fans and anyone who hasn't really been involved in the game, it's probably really difficult for them to understand. It probably doesn't make any sense for them at all.

Are you surprised there aren't any Canadian teams in playoff spots?

I never thought much about that. I don't look at it like Canadian or American, I look at it like the NHL. You've got to earn your right. The great thing about the League is you've got to earn your right to be in a playoff position. It's hard to be in. We took a lot of pride in the years I was in Detroit, we were in there 10 years straight since the lockout and no one else had done that. You take a lot of pride in that. Teams that are good and used to doing it expect to do it. For the rest of us that are trying to get to have a calibre of team like that, I don't think it makes any difference if you're a Canadian or a US city. You just want to build a model franchise that you know you're going to be in every year.

Do you anticipate any lineup changes tomorrow?

You know, I don't know that for sure. What I'll do is I'll see who's all ready to go tomorrow and we'll go from there... Yeah [Reimer starts].

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