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Mike Babcock, John Tavares and more players from training camp

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The team is in Niagara Falls, now, and there’s decisions to be made, but no one is telling you now who will play where.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Mike Babcock

Babcock starts out with a good point, that training camp is not just for the open roster spots on the Leafs — it’s about special teams spots and ice time on both the Leafs and the Marlies.

He won’t tell who will be where on the Leafs power play, but he points out you won’t see that in camp. Obviously not because William Nylander isn’t there. The only exception to the no answers on the lineup is that Tyler Ennis will take Nylander’s spot with Matthews at first.

The next set of comments it process talk. It’s very fun to hear the process speech in Babcock-ese. “Get better every five-game segment,” is one of his favourite sayings, and that’s process talk. That also means the x points in five games posts are coming back for another year. I haven’t decided yet what x is going to be. I wonder if Babcock has?

He gives some life advice. Get a whole life and don’t think about hockey all the time. I’ll second that. Stop worrying about the William Nylander contract. Babcock isn’t. The Leafs are very much presenting a unified message that this is all business. And this is exactly the same message that Nylander himself is delivering. I even puzzled out a Swedish interview that was very recent where he said all the same things: The speculation on money and term is all baseless, and they’ll get the thing done in time.

“Dubie” is never going to stop being funny. Babcock thinks Dubie isn’t very different from Lou. This is another area where I agree with him. I think the way they say things is so different, that all you have to do is mix in your preconceived ideas about what age means and you have an instant view of the two people as extreme opposite poles that conforms to expectations. I think it’s imaginary.

He honest to god says, “Give ‘er,” at one point.

The scrum ends with Babcock talking emotionally about the broadcast of the Humboldt Broncos game, and he has very favourable things to say about the coverage.

John Tavares

Did you know he’s a Leaf now?

Babcock talked a lot about John Tavares as a leader and a veteran player. He shows that in how desperately bland an interview he is. He says nothing unexpected, and the real pleasure is just looking at him in that hat, to be honest.

Okay, he has one good line. Someone asks if the Leafs compare to the Penguins in one-two centre depth, and he’s not sure comparing yourself to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is all that smart.

Both Babcock and Tavares are upfront that there will be a natural competition between Tavares and Auston Matthews. They see it as a positive, which is going to be the main tension between how the team presents themselves and how the narrative-driven media will discuss this dynamic.

That said, if you think we aren’t going to run a comparison between the two centres once there’s 20 or so games in, you’re fooling yourself, but we’ll resist all “tension in the room” silliness.

Auston Matthews

It’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t afraid to say that the Leafs second power play unit wasn’t very good. Because it wasn’t. The persistent meme that Matthews just didn’t get enough PP minutes is annoying because he never earned them. He wants to be a lot better this year, which is not a surprise.

Matthews is not smooth and dull. He is dull and irritable about dumb and repetitive questions, and fair enough. Why should Matthews do yet another bit on who is captain (no one) or who is wearing the A: Morgan Rielly, John Tavares and Patrick Marleau.

He’s not quite as exasperated as Ron Hainsey in his first training camp getting tired of talking about how he was going to train up Rielly. But it’s close. I like this Matthews because he’s not a performing seal there to give the same quote he already gave to someone else so some journalist doesn’t have to quote from a rival source.

Okay, I rolled my eyes at the Matthews on the PK talk. I don’t get the desire to put star players on the PK just to up their minutes. But I don’t care how the ranked list of all-situations minutes looks. I bet some players do, though.

Mitch Marner

It’s important to watch Mitch Marner tell jokes about his beard growing failure because the delivery in his very deep voice is excellent. Other than that, ah, this is the, ah, usual, ah, Marner interview. Obviously. I find myself thinking fondly of Jeremy Bracco, who says exactly the same things, in exactly the same way, just at four times the speed.

The thing that stands out in this video is the reporters who ask the exact same question of every player to collect quotes to string together to make a story on one topic. “Do you have a personal goal?” is obviously the topic of an article out there I’m not rushing to find.

I like Marner saying that Nylander’s contract is not anyone else’s business. Nice little snap in his tone there, and a warning for the future.

Marner perks up and seems genuine when he talks about he and other players leveraging the press attention for their charitable work, and his event from this summer which looked like a lot of fun, and wasn’t the usual sort of thing.

Patrick Marleau

Patrick Marleau, a former captain like Tavares, has a very different way about him. He’s very soft-spoken, charming, attentive, and ... bland. But in a nice way. You feel like he really cares about the questions he answers with expected stock answers.

Travis Dermott

Travis Dermott always looks like he’s about to say something outrageous. And yet, he’s just really upbeat and happy, and wants to get out there and get playing. If he was a little less of a city boy, he’d likely say, “Give ‘er.”

He’s not saying where and with whom he’s playing, of course. We’ll all learn that together.

Garret Sparks

The talk here is all expectation and preparation. If you’re familiar with Marlies press scrums, nothing Sparks says is new. He’s got a set of lines he repeats, like everyone else in hockey, and he repeats them.

He does talk about how the goalie crew went to see the new film about Grant Fuhr, and that’s interesting. I would pay money to have heard them talk together about that film.

The question gets asked if he can handle the lower workload of a backup, he has an answer ready.