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Babcock Games: Is Matthews really OK with not being given an "A"?

September 14, 2018, 11:23 AM ET [268 Comments]
Mike Babcock likes to make statements and develop players a certain way.

Red Wings fans can tell you how they weren't surprised by the announcement that Pat Marleau, John Tavares and Morgan Reilly will all wear A's this season...No Auston Matthews... Not surprising that Babcock is telling his young star he hasn't earned it yet...

The media spin is of course easy: No C was handed out is because it will eventually belong to Matthews...and they just want to keep the pressure off the kid for now..right?

That spin doesn't really fly in a locker room...

I will be the first to agree that many NHL Captains are too young these days...The job of a captain in hockey goes beyond every other sport, and because of that it matters more to the players playing...especially players like Auston Matthews...

The addition of Tavares makes the Leafs a true force, if they weren't one already, but there is something to be said about a team identity...Every team has one, and this team's identity over the past two years was driven by a very tight-knit group of younger players, and Auston is definitely their leader...There is no doubt they follow his style and lead on and off the ice.

If you have followed his career, Patrick Marleau and "letters on his jersey controversies" have ALWAYS been kind of a thing...Marleau was very good for the Leafs last year, but that is not why he is getting an A...Patty is far more of the kind of Canadian veteran, like Tavares, that Babcock is comfortable hanging his hat on...And that is fine, but this is not really addressing where this team's identity really is. It is young and new...rebellious...

Mike Babcock has gone out of his way to have Auston Matthews earn every shift he gets, to the point where in the off-season it was obvious Matthews was getting a little tired of it all. It's a game that Mike always turns to and while I understand Babcock wants to bring along Matthews slowly, there is a fine line between "not rushing" and "frustratingly stifling a players growth."

Auston Matthews is a runaway train and that is a lot of what makes him special...Babcock has shown he isn't comfortable with it, and while his intentions are steeped in history and his own experience developing players, sometimes you need to look at things differently when a different kind of player is presented to you...When a franchise player is ready to pick up the team...

The danger of NOT giving Matthews an "A" and instead giving Marleau a letter is the very real possibility that you are going to divide the locker room....Marner, Nylander, Brown...they are team Auston...and they will be regardless of whether or not you give Auston a letter.

Watching Darren Dreger interview Matthews and Tavares on TSN you could clearly see that while Matthews is saying all the right things, his expressions are also saying, "Yeh I know this is just another Babcock mind game, I will go along with it...for now." And you can see Tavares feels the same way as he sits uncomfortably next to him, admitting that were Matthews not in Toronto he, Tavares, wouldn't be in Toronto either.

But this is what you get with a coach who is this big, safe in his position, and feels he should put his own personal stamp on everyone and everything...You have to take the good with the bad with Babcock...something Ken Holland had grown a little tired of...

What say you??
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