The raving interest surrounding the relationship between Auston Matthews and Mike Babcock gained some clarity on Monday.
TSN’s Darren Dreger sat down with the Maple Leafs head coach in Denmark to discuss multiple topics surrounding the team, including what the current status is between the coach and his star player.
In the aftermath of Toronto’s first-round loss to Boston, reports surfaced that there was some friction between Babcock and Matthews. Although both parties denied any such rift, the Leafs coach still decided to make a trip out to visit Matthews at his home in Arizona to clear the air and to ensure they were on the same page.
“Without media involvement, I might have gone for a beer with Auston, or I might’ve had coffee with him. But I probably wouldn’t have gone to his house,” Babcock noted of the situation. “It ended up being a home run.”
Matthews struggled in the postseason with two points in seven games and naturally was frustrated with how things went against the Bruins. But as Babcock went on to explain, a clash between a coach and a player in the NHL is nothing new.
“He wants to be better. I want him to be better. I want our team to be better. He wants to be playing now. So that’s what we are working towards,” Babcock told Dreger. “He wants to be the best two-way player in the game and we’re going to work as hard as we can.
“It’s not going to be rosy every day. It never is. Anybody who perceives the NHL that things are going good every day, it’s not like that. It’s a competitive, competitive atmosphere. It’s competitive in the room. It’s competitive on the bench. It’s competitive in practice. That’s why the guys love it. That’s why they’re in it. The best players want to be pushed. They want to be pushed the hardest because they want to be the best.”
By all accounts Matthews is an ultra competitive guy — Charlie McAvoy said so himself — so it’s no surprise there would be tension given Babcock’s high standards and how things went for Matthews against the Bruins. But it seems as though the two have worked through whatever tension built up during their first-round matchup and there were certainly some valuable lessons learned for both player and coach.
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