The Maple Leafs have lost four of their past five games, but head coach Mike Babcock thinks he has the answer to pull Toronto out of it.
“To get what you want in life, your work ethic has to come first,” Babcock said after the Leafs’ optional morning skate on Tuesday at Prudential Center. “It’s great that we’re fun to watch; I hear that all the time. When I hear we’re machine-like to watch, I’ll be a happy guy. The guys who grind harder and longer have more fun in the end because they get to do the winning.”
It’s not about just working hard for Babcock. It’s about being able to sustain that commitment for an entire game.
“The [difference between] good and great is the ability to keep on digging in, keep on digging in,” he said. “We didn’t show that [recently]. We have to show that on a nightly basis.”
The idea of being “machine-like” is something Babcock has stressed repeatedly to his players, who have made their own determinations about its meaning.
“I think it’s just not getting complacent and not getting away from a lot of the small details that bring you success that maybe aren’t always the most enjoyable or the most fun,” said John Tavares. “It’s a lot of commitment and a lot of hard work every day over an 82-game season to get the results you want.”
“It’s just finding our best game and realizing the potential of how good we can play,” opined Travis Dermott. “And understanding that and working towards being like that every night. That’s a sign of when a really good team finds its groove, and that’s when stuff gets really exciting.”
Dermott couldn’t say how far away the Leafs are from finding their groove, (“You get close some games, and then you get further away some other games”) but the Leafs appear committed to reaching their fullest capabilities.