You don't often here veteran head coach Mike Babcock speak ill of his former players, but over the weekend the Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss was put in the enviable position of watching one of the players he helped build into what you see today take some liberties with a player that he is trying to build into one of the National Hockey League's next starts.
Babcock and his Toronto Maple Leafs took on the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday and although Babcock and his Maple Leafs would walk away from that contest they were not all smiles after the win. Although we did not hear much about it initially, as it turns out Babcock took particular exception to the treatment of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie defenseman Rasmus Sandin at the hands of Detroit Red Wings veteran forward Justin Abdelkader. During the game Abdelkader laid a big hit on Sandin that would have been a textbook body check and his shoulder not clearly caught Sandin up high, leaving the young Maple Leaf with visible damage to his face after the fact.
Although Babcock did not have a great to say about the hit at the time, following the decision to send Sandin back down to the American Hockey League for more seasoning the head coach expressed his views on the hit. Babcock admitted that he felt the need to protect the Leafs rookie, and one of the organization's top prospects, from that type of hit.
"I didn't like it last game when he got hit in the head ... a (19)-yr-old, I didn't have much appreciation for that ... but I also say to myself, 'What am I doing?' … you have to look after him the best way you can & sometimes you got to be a prudent parent," said Babcock as per TSN's Mark Masters.
Funnily enough Abdelkader has been the target of much criticism from the Red Wings fan base as well in recent seasons, although he has looked somewhat better this season with 2 points through his first 5 games. Abdelkader is also currently boasting a plus minus rating of +3 this season after 4 consecutive seasons as a double digit negative player, so if him finding his game again comes with a little extra edge I think fans in Detroit will be willing to accept it.