“…in the Cardinal organization. … we tend to push our prospects.” — MOZELIAK

NL DIVISION SERIES: CARDINALS VS BRAVES

October 3, 2019

John Mozeliak

Atlanta, Georgia – pregame 1

THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.

JOHN MOZELIAK: Good afternoon. Obviously it’s a very exciting time for the Cardinals. I think all the faces I see out here that cover the Cardinals, we go over the narrative of not being in the postseason the last few years. And for me I reflect back on we’ve only played one game where we’ve been eliminated over those three years, so I do think we’ve been a competitive club.

But to finally get into the postseason and to taste that Champagne, I think, was very meaningful throughout our entire organization so I think there’s a lot of pride in getting back to that, but as we sit here today, now we play baseball. And that’s the exciting part about this, and we really have a club that we have a lot of confidence in and we’re really looking forward to getting it going.

Q. Miles Mikolas, it’s kind of been a journey, you got him from Japan and now he has the great year. The contract and now he’s starting game one. Can you talk about some of the traits of Miles Mikolas that make you excited to have him on your team?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Well, I think back to when we first acquired him and really what he meant to our rotation. And Miles is someone that obviously had a tremendous year last year, but that’s in the past.

I mean, really what we’re talking about now is what are you doing for us. And I do think he kept us competitive throughout this year. Clearly from a performance standpoint he didn’t have the same year he had last year, but showing signs of what he’s capable of doing.

And I think he’s someone that relishes this opportunity to get Game 1, and we certainly hope he makes the most of it.

Q. Sticking with starting pitchers, Jack Flaherty just a few years ago wasn’t even your top-ranked prospect and now here he is one of the better — you had Reyes and there were other guys. Was there a breakthrough for him in the minor leagues where something just switched and you saw a different kind of guy?
JOHN MOZELIAK: So, a Jack Flaherty question, and sort of when did his trajectory change. And I think in Jack’s case he was always somebody that we were very excited about. I do think you always have to remind yourself in the Cardinal organization that we tend to push our prospects.

We tend to move them along. And I think sometimes when you have that pace happening, you don’t see maybe the development or maybe the success and performance that you might see in other organizations.

But he’s someone we’ve always been very high on. I think when you’re comparing like where he was relative to Reyes at the time, I think really just speaks to the depth of prospects at that point.

But, Jack, I think, when you talk about when did things change for him, I think it was really this year. And you look back to late June and what he’s been able to do since then, he’s been a different pitcher. And I think everybody could say why and what went into that.

But I think the biggest change for him was just his ability to throw strikes, be aggressive in that strike zone and learn how to get quicker outs. And I think when that light bulb went on he became an elite pitcher.

Q. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself, but what kind of confidence does it give you knowing if it comes down to it you have a guy like Jack that’s going to be capable of throwing two games in a five-game series here?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Well, I think anytime you have a starter that has Jack’s capabilities or skills, it’s obviously very reassuring that you know that’s in the rotation. But I remember Tony La Russa once told me, your number one is who is going that day.

And I think there’s some simplicity and some perfection to that kind of statement in the sense that that’s what we need today. And baseball, even though you’re playing the best of five, it’s still about today.

And so I think the way Mike Shildt and his staff and the players are approaching this is we’re worried about today.

Q. It’s fairly easy to imagine important moments in this series that can come down to Andrew Miller versus Freddie Freeman late in the game. What have you seen from Miller so far this year in his first season here, and has he lived up to your expectations you had when you all brought him in?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Clearly when we signed Andrew Miller we wanted someone that could handle high-leverage situations. Many of you may remember when we were talking about our negotiation with him, it was really about getting Rizzo, Votto, Yelich out. And that was the very simplistic strategy of why we signed him.

Obviously now we’re in the postseason. We’re going to face a club that has good left-handed hitters, if not great, and so I think you’re going to see a lot of Andrew Miller in this series. In terms of what we expect and what we hope is for him to be able to get those outs.

Q. As you’re putting together the bullpen, I’m wondering if performance being equal, good, bad or indifferent, do you find, as a tiebreaker, power, you decide it this time of year with power in some of these decisions?
JOHN MOZELIAK: When we were really looking at the roster and trying to decide how we should finalize those last pieces, obviously the names that we whittle down to, they did have horsepower. And so I don’t think that was necessarily the one variable that we were saying was going to break a tie.

We also were looking at the left-hand side. So giving us that extra left-hander, given their lineup, and also if we do need more than multiple innings you have Helsley and Ponce that can do it for you — Ponce being the one guy you could stretch out. That was really the tiebreaker for us.

Q. How valuable is it to have that power dynamic?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Well, I think in any postseason season game you tend to see starters come out earlier. So this trend has been going on for a decade where when you’re bringing in that fresh arm, you’d like it to be dynamic. You’d like it to be one that is eye-popping. And when you look at how our bullpen sets up that’s what it does.

Q. You have known Shildt obviously a long time as he’s worked his way up in the organization. He’s always been intentional about getting to this moment here, being the manager. Was there ever a time where you remember thinking back and going, this guy can be a big league manager and possibly in our organization?
JOHN MOZELIAK: So when did I think Mike Shildt might manage in the big leagues? I was attending a dinner with Shildty and a few other people probably back in 2017. We were at Chris’ in Frontenac. And I remember after that dinner I went home and I mentioned to my wife, I’m like, Mike Shildt will manage in the big leagues one day.

I assumed it would be for the Cardinals. That’s kind of when it hit me that he was getting — he was preparing himself for that next step.

Q. Mike Shildt, what did he say at the dinner that made you think he would be a big league manager?
JOHN MOZELIAK: We were discussing a lot of things that we were dealing with at the time, and I thought how he was prepared and what he was thinking about made a lot of sense. Needless to say, a year later we put him in that interim role.

So obviously Shildty I would consider a friend and someone — he’s been a part of my life for a long time. But you never always know what the future is going to hold. But at that night it occurred to me that this is going to happen.

Q. You were talking about power arms in the pen. Could you talk more about Genesis Cabrera, whose results at times were not great, but in terms of his, I guess, X factor, his upside?
JOHN MOZELIAK: I definitely feel like, when you’re looking at what he brings to the table, it’s electric, right? And I think just trying to harness that is probably most important. But I do feel like since he’s been a part of our club, the second time around, he seems to be maturing and growing into this role even quicker. So I do think he could be a valuable resource for us as we enter postseason.

Q. You’ve got two managers in this series who came up through the organizations, who didn’t play big league baseball themselves. Are they a template for other organizations to look at, you know, break a mold, if you will?
JOHN MOZELIAK: It’s a question I hear a lot. And obviously I’ve always admired Brian and his success and especially what he’s been able to do at the Major League level. And to see someone like Mike Shildt be able to do it as well, I think, is a great compliment to the people that are willing to start at the bottom and work their way up.

So, is it a template? I would think that people are going to look at it a little more seriously, because I don’t think — I think where the game is today, it’s not necessarily what you did on the field; it’s how you can understand information, process information in real time.

And obviously both of these gentlemen have had success at the Major League level, and they did it with a much different resum� than many people in the game have.

Q. Shildt announced that Wainwright would pitch Game 3, I’m going to ask you to think back also to about a year ago, if you could have put the odds on him having the year that he had and starting a postseason game for you guys?
JOHN MOZELIAK: Is Waino going to hear this? Obviously it would have been very low. But he’s one of those guys that — you always have that confidence that he can end up doing something special. And I think back to last year when we ended up doing that contract where it really was this very shared risk, low base, if he pitches he could make more money. He did that.

And I think for him, his impact on what he’s meant to this club, especially where he was a year ago, has been much more powerful. And he is — he’s a leader. He cares about this team. And couldn’t be more happy for him.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

“We just couldn’t string anything together.” — Melvin

October 2, 2019

Bob Melvin

Oakland, California

Tampa Bay – 5, Oakland – 1

Q. It seemed like the last week and a half or so the offense, it kind of struggled and it sort of carried over tonight. Just overall what do you think you saw out of the bats?
BOB MELVIN: You know, what I think, it’s a clean slate. I don’t think there’s much carryover once you get to the postseason like that. They pitched really well. We got eight singles, couldn’t do much with it with runners in scoring position. They did more damage on their hits than we did ours.

I don’t think we came into the game thinking about what we did offensively the last week of the season, we just couldn’t string anything together.

Q. Do you feel like Manaea got some fastballs up high, is that what you think was going on there?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, he gives up four hits, three of them are homers, doesn’t walk anybody, strikes out five. Got some balls up the middle they could do some damage with. It looked to me like the same pitch three times. Four hits off him, three are homers.

You’ve got to give them some credit. It’s kind of our game, they kind of beat us with our game. We’re normally a home-run-hitting team, and we couldn’t do much, and they hit the ball out of our ballpark, which can be tough to do.

Q. Your young players might not even know the history. You’re from here. How do you process nine straight losses for the A’s in elimination games?
BOB MELVIN: We’ve lost the last two with this group here. So it’s a different group every year. I don’t think they’re too wound up about that. So get into this Wild Card Game, and a lot of times it comes down to pitching and timely hitting. They got us on the run early in the game, and we really couldn’t answer.

Q. Up to that point, you had gone two years in a row and been eliminated in this game. You won 97 this year. How frustrating is that to go in and out so quickly?
BOB MELVIN: It’s frustrating. It’s very sudden. Baseball, usually you have a series to kind of have a tomorrow and come back and win a game. And we’ve been really good this year about having a tough game and coming back and responding.

There’s no responding in a game like this. So it could be a difficult game. It’s a little out of the norm for baseball. It is what it is. Both teams battled to get to this point and knew it would be one and out. They just played better than we did.

Q. Building block for the future?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, we’ve won a lot of games in the last couple of years. What we need to do is win the division if we want to play a longer series. We’re in a tough division as it is.

But proud of what they did this year. We just got beat one game. And everybody is pretty upset about it.

Q. Can you step back a little and think about all the really young players who had big roles and maybe look at what Luzardo did in three innings this game, and look forward to what’s coming ahead?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, without a doubt. And even more guys within our system. As you see, Puk comes here and Murphy comes here and Luzardo comes here, and we have the Chapmans and the Olsons and guys like that, Laureano back and Canha and Semien and so forth.

So we’re going to get better. As good as this year was, we’re going to get better next year with some of the young pitching arms that you see.

Q. Looking back at the first inning, how big do you think that ended up being? You were able to load the bases, and maybe you got a hit there that changed the momentum of the game, you think?
BOB MELVIN: I didn’t. I felt like it was a successful first inning. We made them throw upwards of 30-some pitches. We made him work. He was walking some guys. Sometimes that sets the tone, and for later on in the game.

But he responded after that. And we couldn’t put together an inning like that where we had multiple guys on base. And his back was at the wall. He made a big pitch when he had to to get out of the first, and never got into a position like that afterward.

Q. You know the Astros so well, and obviously you were fighting for the right to play them. Now that the Rays will, what problems do maybe they present for a team as good as Houston?
BOB MELVIN: Look, the Rays match up as well as anybody in baseball. And they use their entire 25-man roster. They have terrific starting pitching. They have a great bullpen, match up well. They’re going to give any team a problem.

Q. No earned runs against you guys. Do you think with the rotation that’s projected for next year, there seems to be five guys, including the two left-handers coming up, penciled in already for next year. Do you think one of those guys could be somebody who actually does help you get through these early stages of the postseason and finally put the A’s over the top?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, I feel like Manaea is a guy like that, Luzardo is starting next year, Puk will probably be starting next year, too. We have the makings of an even better team next year. And you couldn’t help but think of that as the season was winding down and some of these younger guys came up and played so well. But this one’s a little tough to digest. We’ll move on to next year after we deal with this.

Q. Khris could be the one, but he was overlooked two straight years for this role to start.
BOB MELVIN: We had two good options to pitch tonight, Manaea and Fiers.

Q. You talk about wanting to reward the fans. This is one of the best crowds that you’ve really ever had in your tenure. What would be the message to the fans?
BOB MELVIN: It’s disappointing. We always want to play good with a big crowd here. And that was beyond a big crowd. They came out in full force. They were engaged from the first pitch of the game. They were engaged from the Anthem on, it felt like.

We just couldn’t give them enough to really get into it. But every inning they were up. Every inning they were waving their towels and so forth. And it’s disappointing that we couldn’t put on a better show for them.

Q. On that note, it kind of is an inclination of the type of support you really could have on a day-to-day basis in this community in a new ballpark as things move forward with the young team that you’re putting together?
BOB MELVIN: Absolutely. We see it in the postseason. We see it in big series. They come out for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

YANDY DIAZ: TWO HRS

Yandy Diaz

Oakland, California

Tampa Bay – 5, Oakland – 1

Q. (Question in Spanish.)
YANDY DIAZ: I’ve been out for two months, but I tried to come out and play as hard as I can. And luckily the results came in right.

Q. To jump back right away against Sean Manaea, what did that do for you guys, just to keep adding on there with another home run?
YANDY DIAZ: When I looked to the bench and saw the guys super excited, it pumped me up to go around the bases. I thought we had to carry that momentum throughout the game.

Q. Yandy, how big is it for you guys, you know you need to win this game, but now you have another tough test to go to Houston and beat a team that won over a hundred games this year? Do you feel like after winning a game here you’re able to go to a place like Houston?
YANDY DIAZ: We have to keep it in mind, we know they’re a good team. Good matchup against us. We have to play the game we know how to play. We just have to keep the same mindset going into Houston.

Q. When the ball cleared, you took a glance at the dugout. Where were you on the bases at that point?
YANDY DIAZ: When I was rounding second base, I turned over to glance at the dugout, and that’s when I saw everyone super excited.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what the process was like getting back to this level after the injury, and did you think you’d be ready for playoff baseball?
YANDY DIAZ: As everyone knows, I was out for two months, but I did everything I could in those two months to recover as quick as I could. Try to rush it at times to be ready to be here to play for the playoffs.

Q. (Question in Spanish.)
YANDY DIAZ: He likes to throw on the outside edge, so I was trying to just go with it and hit a line drive, and just get a good pitch to hit, and luckily it went out.

Q. A lot of people would say this is a game where you guys are two of the more unknown franchises. You guys are probably the real underdog going forward. Do you enjoy being in that role?
YANDY DIAZ: Yeah, we’ve never been one of the favorites. We’re always the underdogs. But we work hard and go out there and try to compete every day.

Q. You had signed originally with the Indians and played two years in the Majors with them. What were your thoughts when they traded you?
YANDY DIAZ: Yeah, I was a little surprised the Indians traded me. But I know going to Tampa Bay, they have a good young group, they play hard and they’re out there to win, so I was pleased to be on this side.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

RAYS 5, A’S 1

AL WILD CARD GAME

Oct. 3, 2019

Kevin Cash

Oakland, California

Tampa Bay – 5, Oakland – 1

Q. Kevin, pretty remarkable, even yesterday you didn’t know if Yandy was going to play. He hops out of bed and can slug it, and he showed you he can do that?
KEVIN CASH: He did. I don’t know if we expected that type of performance. I said to Buster, in the third inning, he’s made us look a lot smarter than we really are by getting them back in the lineup. He was a presence, especially against left-handed pitching. Got us off to a good start with the home run.

This crowd, this stadium was impressive. To get a lead, that somewhat calmed it. I don’t know if it totally calmed it, but he was a big part of that.

Q. Of course you have to go on a plane and head to Houston. Does this give you guys pretty good momentum going into a series like that after beating a team like the A’s?
KEVIN CASH: Definitely. They’re a tremendous ballclub. They’re ran the right way from the front office that we know of. I couldn’t think higher of Bob Melvin and what that staff does. We’ve talked about the mirroring and everything, but they’ve got a bunch of good players. We’re fortunate to be able to win.

As far as momentum goes, we’ve had to create some momentum here in the last 15 games of the regular season because of the pressure that the A’s and the Indians put on us. We’ve been on a nice roll here lately.

Q. You guys had history of digging up kind of underrated players, guys who maybe not that many people know about and turn them into a productive member of the Rays. What goes into that?
KEVIN CASH: Look, we’re fortunate, we have really smart people that can evaluate talent. And I agree with you, we’ve kind of prided ourselves, this organization, for many years, on maybe finding the players that have fallen through the cracks a little bit.

And we’ve got a handful of them on the roster right now that are main pieces to what we’re trying to accomplish. Ton of credit goes to the front office for recognizing that. It’s easy to turn away on a guy, a young player that doesn’t come out of the gate on fire, but does some special things under the surface. And I think we’ve got a bunch of those guys that do that.

Q. What can you say about what Charlie did getting through the first inning and then settling in?
KEVIN CASH: When the first inning ended, I kind of said to myself, we were fortunate to have Charlie Morton on the mound. We get the 1-0 lead. A young pitcher in that situation, that environment, you just wonder how he’s going to be able to handle that.

But Charlie, been there, done that, his veteran, his experience, I think allowed that. And I would still say, I don’t think Charlie was at his best today, but he certainly made his best pitches when they counted the most.

Q. Before the game Kevin was up here and Austin, and they spoke a little bit about how much this means. You guys have the lowest payroll in baseball, and what this means for your franchise, just showing what you can do in an unorthodox way?
KEVIN CASH: I try to take those things out of it. I’m fortunate to get to work with the people I work with. We’ve got a job to do: Go win games. Doesn’t matter what the payroll is. Find a way to win games, and credit those players for taking that same mentality for 162 games.

Q. I’m sure it was tough to use Ji-Man, some other lefties out of the lineup, how impressive is it you can mix and match, throw in a bunch of righties, and those guys seem to perform all the time?
KEVIN CASH: That’s how our lineup is built. There are certain lineups you run seven, eight guys out there, eight, nine guys out there, and that’s what you’ve got. We’re not built that way.

The reason we were successful this year is by being versatile. We use the phrase buy in quite a bit. It’s tough, because Ji-Man Choi means a lot to our club, and not to be in the starting lineup, players can perceive that as us not wanting them to play. That’s not the case. We’re going to utilize every matchup we can to put in our advantage.

Q. Following up with the previous question, what was it you guys saw about Yandy to trade for him? Did you kind of foresee that he could turn into a guy with some pop?
KEVIN CASH: Yeah, our guys — I remember those discussions that took place at the Winter Meetings. We gave up a good player in Jake Bauers, a young player.

I think the thing that stood out the most with Yandy is how hard he hit the baseball. In the air, on the ground, he hits it as hard as anybody in baseball, and he does it at a consistent clip.

We have not said one thing to him about hitting the ball in the air, any of that. We took the approach of let him be, give him consistent reps. He hasn’t had those because of the injury. But before the injury, he was getting consistent reps, and let the player figure it out a little bit.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

MAPLE LEAFS 5, SENATORS 3

POSTGAME NOTES


Oct. 3, 2019.

ON THE SCORESHEET

  • Frederik Gauthier put the Maple Leafs on the board at 2:20 of the second period. Gauthier recorded three goals and 11 assists in 70 games during the 2018-19 season. The Maple Leafs were 3-0-0 when Gauthier scored a goal last season.
  • Trevor Moore scored Toronto’s second goal of the night at 4:42 of the second period. Moore had a pair of goals and six assists in 25 games with the Maple Leafs last season. He had 23 goals in 46 games with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) in 2018-19, which ranked second on the team.
  • Auston Matthews registered the third Maple Leafs goal of the night at 8:02 of the second period and later had Toronto’s fourth goal of the night on the power play at 14:50 of the second period. Per NHL Stats, he is the fourth player in League history to score in each of his first four career season openers, joining Dit Clapper (1927-28 – 1930-31), Dave Andreychuk (1982-83 – 1985-86) and Sergei Fedorov (1990-91 –1993-94). Matthews has registered multiple points in four consecutive season openers to begin his career.
  • Ilya Mikheyev notched the primary assist on Moore’s second period goal and later had the fifth Maple Leafs goal of the night at 9:43 of the third period. Mikheyev’s assist was his first career NHL point, while his third period goal is his first career NHL goal.
  • Tyson Barrie recorded the primary assist on Gauthier’s second period goal and later had the primary assist on Mikheyev’s third period goal. Barrie’s first assist was his first point as a Maple Leaf. He had seven multi-assist games in 2018-19. 
  • Dmytro Timashov collected the secondary assist on Gauthier’s second period goal. Timashov’s assist is his first career NHL point. He ranked third among Toronto Marlies (AHL) skaters in assists last season with 35 in 72 games.
  • Rasmus Sandin had the secondary assist on Moore’s second period goal. Sandin’s assist is his first career NHL point. He was the top scoring U-19 skater in the AHL last season with 28 points (6-22-28) in 44 games with the Toronto Marlies.
  • Willian Nylander registered the primary assist on Matthews’ second period goal. Nylander had 20 assists and 27 points (7-20-27) in 54 games during the 2018-19 season. The Maple Leafs were 11-3-0 when Nylander picked up an assist last season.
  • Morgan Rielly picked up the secondary assist on Matthews’ second period goal. Rielly registered a career-high 52 assists last season, which ranked fifth among all NHL defencemen.
  • Mitch Marner recorded the primary assist on Matthews’ second period power play goal. Marner led the Maple Leafs in assists last season with 68 to finish fourth among all NHL skaters.
  • John Tavares collected the secondary assist on Matthews’ second period power play goal. In 2018-19, Tavares had 88 points (47 goals, 41 assists) in 82 games to establish a new single-season career-high for points.
  • Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots to earn the victory tonight.

SHOTS ON GOAL (5-on-5 in brackets)

 1st2nd3rdOTTOTAL
OTTAWA12 (11)3 (3)11 (7)26 (21)
TORONTO14 (8)17 (15)11 (9)42 (32)
     

SHOT ATTEMPTS (5-on-5 in brackets)

 1st2nd3rdOTTOTAL
OTTAWA17 (16)11 (8)19 (15)47 (39)
TORONTO31 (19)28 (25)21 (14)80 (58)

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

  • The Maple Leafs are 1-0-0 at home this season.
  • Toronto’s all-time record is 54-53-3-11 in 121 games against the Senators and 30-22-2-7 in 61 games played in Toronto.
  • Toronto is 1-0-0 against the Eastern Conference this season and 1-0-0 against the Atlantic Division.
  • Tonight’s attendance was 19,612.

MAPLE LEAFS LEADERS

Shots(Matthews)
Shot Attempts14 (Matthews)
Faceoff Wins13 (Tavares)
Faceoff Win Percentage57% (Tavares – 13 won, 10 lost)
Hits(Timashov)
Blocked Shots(Ceci)
Takeaways(Matthews, Tavares)
TOI25:18 (Rielly)
Power Play TOI4:39 (Rielly)
Shorthanded TOI3:33 (Marincin)
Shifts28 (Muzzin)
5-on-5 Shot Attempt Percentage72.2% (Sandin – 13 for, 5 against)

RECORD WHEN…

  • The Maple Leafs were 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and 1-for-5 on the power play tonight. Toronto is 1-0-0 when not allowing a power play goal this season and 1-0-0 when scoring one power play goal.
  • Toronto is 1-0-0 when allowing the first goal of the game.
  • The Maple Leafs are 1-0-0 when trailing after one period and 1-0-0 when leading after two periods.
  • Toronto is 1-0-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • The Maple Leafs are 1-0-0 in Wednesday games.

OF NOTE…

  • Toronto challenged for offside at 7:28 of the second period. It was determined that Bobby Ryan was offside prior to Ron Hainsey’s goal. The original call was overturned – No goal Ottawa.
  • Tyson Barrie and William Nylander were on the ice for a team-high 26 Toronto shot attempts-for at 5-on-5. Barrie finished the game with a 5-on-5 shot attempt percentage of 61.9 percent (26 for, 16 against), while Nylander finished the game with a 5-on-5 shot attempt percentage of 63.4 percent (26 for, 15 against).
  • Auston Matthews was 3-for-4 (75%) in the faceoff circle when in the offensive zone.
  • William Nylander started 16.7 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone, which was the lowest mark among Toronto skaters.
  • John Tavares won 73 percent (8 won, 3 lost) of his offensive zone faceoffs.

UPCOMING GAMES:

  • Friday, October 4, 7:00 p.m. at Columbus Blue Jackets (TSN4, FAN 590)
  • Saturday, October 5, 7:00 p.m. vs. Montreal Canadiens (Sportsnet, FAN 590)
  • Monday, October 7, 7:00 p.m. vs. St. Louis Blues (TSN4, TSN 1050)
  • Thursday, October 10, 7:00 p.m. vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Sportsnet Ontario, FAN 590)
  • Saturday, October 12, 7:00 p.m. at Detroit Red Wings (Sportsnet, TSN 1050)

What the Maple Leafs said


HEAD COACH MIKE BABCOCK

On John Tavares being named captain of the Maple Leafs:

Well, I mean, an unbelievable honour to be the captain of the Leafs. Darryl [Sittler] and Wendel [Clark] were in there after. You know, I don’t care who you are, it’s pretty special to say the least. He’s the kind of man and he’s the kind of leader, he’s the kind of person that our guys look up to and does everything right every day. He’s all about winning – he’s not about John – he’s about winning. He’s a great example to all of us. When I ask him a question he doesn’t think, ‘Is this good for John?’ He thinks, ‘Is this is good for the team?’ He’s a man. So, I think it’s great. I think it’s great for Mitch [Marner] and [Auston Matthews] too as they grow in their leadership roles. Obviously, Morgan Rielly is a huge leader here and sets the tone with enthusiasm and work ethic as well. And, so, we’re lucky. You know, Hyman and Muzzin are bigtime leaders on this team too and they’re in our leadership group. We ideally will add more and more to that because it’s important to have lots of guys all in. If you’re going to have success, the Manager or the Coach or the President is not the leader. The players take control of the team, they set the accountability and that’s how you win in the end. So, It took us a while to get to this point, but we’re excited we’re at this point.

On tonight as an important night for the team:

There’s no question about it. I know we all – we’re in a hurry. You want instant gratification, that’s society today. It’s obviously Toronto and hockey. But the reality is you just keep plugging away and doing good things and good things happen. We’re still going to have lots of moments this year where you wonder what the heck is going on. But just keep grinding, doing good things and that’s what makes you better.

On tonight’s game:

Well, I thought it was a perfect start for them. You know, you come out, we’re nervous, bang it in our net and then we get three power plays in a row and we’re borderline dysfunctional, tense, couldn’t move. We didn’t skate. But I thought once we got through that down 1-0, I thought we played. I thought we played pretty good in exhibition at the end – not at the start but at the end. I like the fact that we had the puck a lot, we spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, we shoot it and get it back. We seemed to be working pretty hard. I was really impressed with the Kerfoot line tonight – Mikheyev and Moore and those guys look good. The more depth you have – everyone knows Matthews is good, I know that too – but it’s those other guys that create depth that allow you to be better I think are important for us.

On Matthews’ performance tonight is indicative of what he wants to see from him:

Well, he’s that kind of player, right? He has a chance to be generational player. So, now, what can you learn from John [Tavares]? You can learn John is working every day, working harder and winning every puck, working hard in practice. So, that’s the challenge for our group. We have to get better; we all understand, we’ve laid it out very clearly where we’ve got to get better. We evaluated ourselves after exhibition and we’ll continue to do that where we’re going. Everybody knows what we’ve got to do to have success and, so, we talk about it on a daily basis and we’re trying to work towards that. That, to me, isn’t always going to go good but at least we’ve got a plan.

On what it says about Mikheyev that he can make an impact in his first NHL game:

Well, he’s good is what it says, but he’s way better than you’ve seen. He’s just got to get comfortable and know what direction he’s going and all that stuff. When he understands the language better and he’s – don’t get me wrong, he’s smart, he understands good – but it’s going so fast on the ice, talking to guys, it’s hard for him. But I thought – he’s an unbelievable penalty killer, boy, can he fly.

On if there are similarities between Nicklas Lidstrom and John Tavares:

Well, you know, I always hate comparing anyone to Nick Lidstrom. Seven-time Norris Trophy winner, one of the finest human beings you’ll ever meet. John Tavares is his own person, does things his own way. He’s incredible to be around because he makes you a better coach – not scared to tell you things, not shy, not scared tell the guys things. I don’t know if he ever suffered from peer pressure in his life, but I’m sure he doesn’t now. He does the right thing on a daily basis. Wants to be great, wants to get better. Good man. Good family man. Pretty impressive for us to have a guy like that. I think it helps the other guys become what they want to be too. We’re all trying to get better each and every day and we’re trying to become the people we want to be. That’s a good example.

On the successful Coach’s Challenge in the second period:

[Jordan Bean] was on that. He just, right away he was talking. It was one of those ones where the linesman wasn’t in the way, which, lots of times that play the linesman is in the way and you can’t tell. So, obviously, that’s a big play in the game right there and an important play for us and those guys were on top of it. [Andrew Brewer] and Bean Bag got it right, which is important. We talked before. They went through it, obviously – they don’t want to be under the gun so we went through. The challenges this year, you’ve got to know. You’ve flat out got to know. There’s no pretending you know, you better not. So we talked about that. They were right.

TYSON BARRIE (2 ASSISTS)

On setting up Mikheyev for his first career NHL goal:

I think it’s incredible. I think all three of those guys who played their first game tonight got a point, I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before. For [Mikheyev] to get one there too, it’s pretty cool and something I’m sure he’ll never forget.

On what makes Tavares a good choice for captain:

I think with [Tavares] you know exactly what you’re going to get out of him every night. He’s such a professional, the way he prepares, the way that he plays the game. It’s something we can all get behind, something we can all learn from.  He’s got his head down and going in the right direction every time.

On what he learned playing with Matthews:

He’s a gamebreaker. He’s one of those elite guys in the league that can change the whole momentum of the game and you saw it tonight. He’s a special player.

AUSTON MATTHEWS (2 GOALS)

On being named an alternate captain this season:

It’s a big honor. I think all four of us look at it as a big honour, big responsibility. So, I think, like we’ve been saying all along, there’s lots of leaders in this room. We’re just the guys that are wearing the letters.

On what makes Tavares a good leader for the team:

Well, he’s worn it before, he knows what it’s like and, you know, I guess, the responsibility that comes with it. He’s just the guy that comes in every day and does his job and he’s humble about it, works hard to be a good example for everybody.

On if he’s disappointed he wasn’t named captain:

No, I’m not disappointed. I mean, I’m happy. Happy to be wearing a letter in general. Just playing hockey with this team. We’ve got a special group. So, it’s just been fun. Fun from training camp, and obviously, nice to get it going tonight.

ILYA MIKHEYEV (1 GOAL, 1 ASSIST)

On his feelings after his NHL debut:

I’m very happy today. I have my first NHL game; I’ve been working a long time for. I’ve waited for this moment my whole life.

On what it felt like to score his goal:

Relief. I don’t believe it.

On if his family was in attendance tonight:

No, I have my girlfriend here. My parents are busy now and they have plans to come in November. I hope.

On what he did with the puck from his goal:

I took a picture. I called my Grandma and my Parents.

On playing in front of the crowd in Toronto:

Very great. Great atmosphere, great fans, great organization. This is my first time playing with this many people. Great.

On the biggest challenge of moving to Toronto:

The language because I’m learning English with my teacher in Russia at home. The mentality I bring because in Russia we have a difference. What’s important for me, I don’t know why – I like soup, I don’t know why you don’t eat soup. My girlfriend is cooking and I’m very happy when I eat.

MORGAN RIELLY (1 ASSIST)

On being named an alternate captain:

It’s great, but there’s more important things going on. There’s guys in this room who don’t wear letters that are leaders and expected to be a part of that leadership group and take responsibility for certain things. It is what it is. There’s a big picture.

On John Tavares being named captain:

Johnny’s the perfect guy for the job. You know we’ve talked about it – a poised, confident person who carries himself like a true professional and comes to work every day. Like I said, the perfect guy for it.

On the way the team played tonight:

I thought it was good. Obviously, not the start we wanted but I thought we bounced back and played hard and I thought there were periods of the game where we really controlled it. It’s a good first night.

JOHN TAVARES (1 ASSIST)

On the team using his family to tell him he was being named captain: 

I’ll never forget that moment. It’s been an amazing three weeks. To see (his son Jace) there with (a jersey with a “C”) on, to be the one to tell me, was very emotional and really, really special. It’s hard to really describe to you.

On how hard it was to keep the secret:

I think, just excited to experience the moment and get out there and everyone hearing it for the first time, and just the way the organization did it. From how I found out, like I said, to the last couple days, just preparing. It certainly was nice to get it out there and I think the way we did it was really special. A great way to do it and to follow it up with the way we played just made it that much better.