With Team Canada’s first game at the Olympics only days away, head coach Mike Babcock offered some advice for all of his players, including new addition Marty St. Louis.
You’re going to have to battle for your spot, whether you were a lock to make the team or left off the initial roster, as St. Louis was back on Jan. 7.
That’s a message that should resonate for the Tampa Bay Lightning star, as he had admitted earlier in the week he had some bitterness at being passed over.
But on Friday afternoon as the Detroit Red Wings prepared for Saturday’s final pre-Olympic break game against the Lightning, Babcock called on St. Louis to put that initial disappointment aside and battle for his spot in the lineup.
“I think everyone’s allowed to be bitter, but you get up and get on with it,” Babcock said. “You know what I mean? That’s life. If you go through his career, he’s been called out lots of times for the fact that oh you’re too small, you’re too this and he’s just been determined. That’s all over with that stuff. You’re on the team – now you’ve got to find a way to be part of it.
“The big thing is going to Sochi is there’s 14 forwards, eight D and three goalies. One is not going to dress each night and two of those, one of the D and one of the forwards, aren’t going to get a ton of ice time. So be a good pro, be a real good teammate and battle your butt off in a competitive environment to get as much as you can to help the team. It’s not going to be about any one player.”
Babcock revealed he was given some input as to who the replacement for Steven Stamkos should be, after he was ruled out of the Games on Wednesday due to his broken leg not being fully healed.
The coaching staff, Babcock explained, had one of six votes, with the management team led by Steve Yzerman holding the other five. Only this time around, when it came to St. Louis, they were in unanimous agreement he should be the replacement.
“We didn’t have to vote at all; everyone just said St. Louis is the guy,” Babcock said. “Prior to that, we all voted and if you got consensus you were in and if you didn’t get consensus you weren’t. It’s personal to the individual player, but it’s not about any one person. It’s about our country and giving ourselves the best chance.
“It would have been easy for Steve to say ‘Marty’s on the team because I said he’s on the team.’ That to me is not how you manage though. In the end, we feel we had an opportunity [to have our voices heard] and that’s all you can ask for.”
As for St. Louis making an impact on the team, Babcock recalled a story from the 2010 Games, when he initially told Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards that he would start the tournament as Canada’s 13th forward and play a more limited role.
Richards simply laughed it off, Babcock said, and that was exactly the kind of response he wanted. It showed confidence, for one thing, and a willingness to fight for his role on the team.
Then, over the rest of the tournament, Richards became one of the team’s most important forwards, putting up five points in the seven games and skating on one of the top lines as Canada won gold.
“He laughed,” Babcock said. “And I laughed too because I thought that was a great response. In the end, he played with Nash and Toews and they played big minutes and he was fantastic. Other guys started on the first line and didn’t play much.
“You know what, life’s about seizing the opportunity you’ve been given and make the best of it. Be a good pro. Be a good teammate. Understand it’s not about you. It’s about Canada. We’ll all be fine. If you’ve got confidence in your ability, you walk in and you grab hold of it. Everybody gets the same opportunity.”
More quotes from Mike Babcock
On Stamkos being out and St. Louis being in: “Disappointed for one and pleased for the other. It’s real hard for Stammer. He’s worked real hard to come back. Obviously the news is all positive on him; it’s just not soon enough. St. Louis – I mean obviously when you’re making these decisions and selecting these teams, there’s a lot of hard decisions. I don’t care who you are, there’s still guys on the outside who think they should have been announced the first time, and their coaches and their owners, they think they should have. But you have to make hard decisions. The reality is it doesn’t matter how you get there if you get there. Then you grab your chunk of cheese. How well and how hard you play that determines who gets to play.”
On if he has any concerns over Canada’s goaltending, and specifically Roberto Luongo: “I’m not concerned… I just think he’s a really good goalie. I’ve been with him a number of times and he’s always found a way to deliver. So I’m not concerned, no.”
On Pavel Datsyuk and dealing with the pressure that comes with a home country Games: “It’s good for him. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I can’t think of anything better than being a Western Canadian and being the coach of Team Canada and getting to coach in Western Canada in a beautiful city and share it with your family, share it with Canadians. And be able to come through and get the job done.”