Sports Babcock worries about Leafs’ conditioning after break

07:05  14 january  2018
07:05  14 january  2018 Source:   Toronto Star

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  Dermott moves up as Leafs look for redemption against Blue Jackets The Maple Leafs are looking for a measure of revenge on Monday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Air Canada Centre.Goalie Frederik Andersen will be in the Leafs net as they try to avenge a 4-2 loss in Columbus on Dec. 20.“They slapped us around the last time we were in their building, so we have to be ready to play,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. The Blue Jackets did not skate Monday morning, after having played against Florida — a 3-2 shootout win — on Sunday. It’s expected backup Joonas Korpisalo, who beat the Leafs last time out, will start in net for the Blue Jackets.Babcock hopes the Blue Jackets are the more tired team. The Leafs had Sunday off.

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The Leafs are on a five-day break, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn't mean Mike Babcock has to be happy about it.© Liam Richards The Leafs are on a five-day break, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn't mean Mike Babcock has to be happy about it.

Mike Babcock knew the likelihood of his players taking their skates with them during a five-day break was next to nil. But the Maple Leafs coach was concerned about the potential effects of his players being off skates during their annual bye week.

Those affects are not considered major: The players were given workout plans by the Leafs sports sciences staff, and are expected to follow it even if they are visiting beaches in Florida, California and Mexico.

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Players have discussed how long is too long when it comes to a break from skating every day. Some have said they draw the line at 48 hours during the season; they believe they can lose sharpness and conditioning if the wait any longer. Even in the off-season, players are rarely off skates for more than a couple of weeks.

Some Leafs, such as Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, and Travis Dermott, worked out and skated most days last summer. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who leads the NHL in scoring, remained in Tampa last summer to work on his skating and his overall game. He rented the Amalie Arena ice five days a week for workouts.

Babcock, who is as dedicated as any pro athlete to his personal workout routines, remained in regular contact with his players over the summer, ensuring they were on top of their off-season regimens. During this break, he’ll be putting faith in the sports sciences department, rather than speed-dialing his players.

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“As a younger coach, I would have wanted the players to take their skates to the Bahamas and find some ice to skate on” Babock said. “You and I both know that ain’t happening. So you pick the battles you can.

“We have a good sports sciences team, they have good information on how (players) can help themselves, and we go from there. Any time you take time off, getting the motor running and getting skating again is not as easy as you may think.”

The break stems from the last round of CBA talks, when the players’ union negotiatied a mandatory five-day break for every team during the 82-game season.

And while the players will not have a break for the Olympics this season, they will have another five day layoff for the NHL all-star festivities at the end of January.

While Babcock is a firm believer in remaining prepared and sharp throughout the entire season, the players see benefits in loosening their focus on what is now a year-long strength and conditioning regimen.

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“Hopefully, get away and enjoy some positive energy,” Leafs centre Nazem Kadri said before the break, “. . . and catch some sun, because there hasn’t been too much here in Toronto.”

The Leafs are back to work at 4 p.m. Monday, the earliest time allowed under the CBA deal, and will face St. Louis the next night. The Blues will be coming off a six-day break.

Senators coach Guy Boucher is more familiar with in-season breaks than most NHL coaches, given his coaching tenure in Europe, where teams enjoy several breaks during a season.

Boucher, like Babcock, was concerned with the effects on skating and conditioning but said there is no sense in trying to figure out the perfect way to keep players sharp.

“We had breaks in Europe and we tried everything, and nothing worked,” said Boucher, who coached SC Bern in Switzerland before coming the the NHL. “All teams are in the same boat there.”

The NHL has tried to schedule teams coming off bye weeks against each other.

“That way, you don’t get a team that has been playing regularly facing a team that is coming off the break,” Boucher said. “You’d definitely notice the difference there. The teams that have been playing would be way ahead of the ones that have been away. It wouldn’t be a good game, I don’t think.”

Babcock not hitting panic button despite Leafs' slide .
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock didn’t change his lines at practice Wednesday. He didn’t change his power play. About the only thing he shifted was his fourth line, where he put Dominic Moore back at centre in favour of Frederik Gauthier — but that was just practice.With his team in a three-game slide, and losers of six of their last eight, the opposite was expected. And that was certainly the tone many of the questions took on after the practice ended.A line shuffle? Maybe try and get some of his slumping scorers out of a funk?“This is how I look at it,” Babcock responded.

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