The Toronto Maple Leafs and head coach Mike Babcock made an interesting decision on Sunday when they opted to move talented young forward William Nylander down to the team's 4th line following the young man's continued struggles since returning to the ice.
The move came as somewhat of a surprise as earlier in the week Babcock had gone on record to state that he simply does not see Nylander as the kind of player that should be filling a 4th line role. No doubt given his highly publicized contract hold out earlier in the season as well as the fact that he has received a significant raise, both the Maple Leafs and their fans also feel that Nylander has no business being a 4th line player.
“Kappy started there this year,” Babcock said as per the Toronto Sun. “Mitchy just played there his first year when he was learning to play, but the bottom line is we don’t want Willy on the fourth. We want him being a contributor to our club. He’s an honest kid, he’ll continue to work at it. He’s probably never been through something like this.”
As you would expect given these comments from the Maple Leafs head coach there were many who wondered why it was that the coach had decided to once again put him on the 4th line. When he answered Babcock was both critical of his young star while also stating that he was looking to take some pressure off him in the hopes of jump starting his game and getting him back into the form he has previously shown as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"He knows he is getting in his own way now. We're just going to take the heat off him. We're going to play him where he is playing and play him all over and give him an opportunity that way. He knows. He told me exactly what he has to do."
It's an odd statement by Babcock if only because the decision to move him to the 4th line has seemingly created more headlines and more heat for Nylander to deal with, but given Nylander's struggles I don't think it's fair to question any moves Babcock makes in an effort to get him back on his game at this point.