For all the flack Mike Babcock takes for his scowling and hard-nosed ways, he really comes across as progressive to the press.
You could argue that there was nothing extraordinary about his conversation with TSN about promising prospect Mitch Marner.
Saying that a high-end prospect was “magical” during a practice and that he has a good chance to make the Toronto Maple Leafs next season isn’t groundbreaking. Praising other coaches isn’t unusual, either.
Still, it’s refreshing to hear Babcock’s positive approach to subjects like Marner putting on weight. Rather than making it a high-pressure sell, he insists “all you have to do is get stronger” and that he wants him to be … the best Mitch he can be.
The Maple Leafs should really follow Bab’s advice and let the players solve that problem for them, as there are advantages to keeping Marner with the team (getting his NHL reps) versus being sent down (saving ELC years, giving him time to mature).
Either way, it makes you wonder if Babcock’s approach really sets him apart. Yes, there’s that taskmaster side, but there’s also open-minded you don’t always see in the “stricter” types.
- He really sticks up for the likes of Nazem Kadri, where other coaches of his ilk might lean more negative.
- Babcock seems very intrigued by analytics, even though his track record of success would give him room to be rigid about such subjects.
- Borderline blasphemy to some: he wants bigger nets.
- It might be subtle, but the team is already buying in to his system.
People love to beat up on the Leafs, including with Babcock and his hefty salary.
They’ll make mistakes along the way, yet interviews like these give you the impression that the team is in much abler hands.