Babcock praises Matthews, also warns: ‘One year doesn’t make a career’


When Tony Romo first burst onto the NFL scene, Bill Parcells tried to cool things down just a bit by saying something to the effect of “Don’t get out the anointing oil just yet.”

It’s very much in Parcells’ and other coaches’ playbooks: bring them up when they’re struggling, throw a bit of ice water on them when they’re riding high. Mike Babcock did at least a bit of that when discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs’ young stars such as Auston Matthews, though for the most part he was providing effusive praise to on Monday.

“Obviously we have good young players,” Babcock said. “We have a lot of them. It’s kind of a group that’s growing up together. But it’s one year and one year doesn’t make a career. You have to do it again and again and again. We’re excited about our opportunities.”

Again, his comments didn’t generally have that sourpuss Parcells vibe overall.

Babcock’s praise went beyond point totals regarding Matthews, raving about his “200-foot game” and stating his belief that the young center can “play against anybody.”

That’s not just hot air, either, as Babcock basically threw Matthews to the wolves very early on as a rookie. The Globe & Mail spotlighted his work against Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry back in December, as just one example.

Ultimately, that all-around play (not to mention working with less experienced wingers rather than top-line guys like Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele) helped Matthews edge Patrik Laine for the Calder in 2016-17. Most importantly, though, it’s that Swiss Army Knife style that could make Matthews the sort of player who can make an impact on the game even when pucks aren’t hitting the net.

Babcock just doesn’t want Matthews to go off to Cabo and phone it in after hearing all of this praise.

(H/T to Sportsnet’s Sonny Sachdeva.)