Quick Shifts: Patrick Marleau vs. the Babcock pace

1. Practice? We’re talking about practice?!

Yes, we are talking about practice.

In 20 years as an NHL player, Patrick Marleau has never had a coach who runs practice like Mike Babcock.

“Babs has a way with what he wants to accomplish with his high-tempo practices. What I’ve notices about his practices is you get one or two chances at your drill, and if you screw up your drill, you don’t get to do it again. It’s game-like. You might only get one or two good rushes [in a game], so you better make the most of them,” Marleau explains.

“It makes you focus that much more in practice.”

Even Mike Commodore, the world’s most ardent Babcock detractor, is on record saying that the man knows how to run a great practice.

We noticed last season that Babcock’s morning skates all run precisely 17 minutes long. Every player knows what to expect.

Marleau says he’s been on past teams where players sense they’ll be doing the same drill for a while, so they let their guard down. It’s human nature to relax when you know you’ll get four chances to dial it in. That’s not the case in Toronto.

The Leafs coach runs a tight ship.

“I’ve had practices like that in the past, but Mike does it every practice,” Marleau says.

“You know going into it: Working on the power play, we’re gonna get two chances, 45 seconds each. You lose the puck, you’ll sit and watch the next group do it. It adds intensity and focus to the practice.”

So far, it works. Marleau is on pace for his first 164-goal season.

2. The Maple Leafs’ kids are no longer rookies, so it’s a safe bet we’re going to gradually see more intersections between the players and outside businesses.

Mitchell Marner recently tweeted a photo of himself shouting out Red Bull, so I asked him about it.

The energy-drink giant approached Marner in summer and asked if he liked the product. Red Bull is one of the many beverages available to Leafs players between periods, and Marner says he picked up a habit of downing one during the second intermission of games in 2016-17. (The London Knights didn’t offer as many choices.)

“It’s not like I drink it a lot off the ice, but I definitely have one a game. I like the taste of it,” Marner said. “I like to keep hydrated. I drink a lot of substance throughout the game. That’s one I think helps me.”

Red Bull declined comment, per company policy, but did confirm they have an agreement with Marner, their latest sponsored Canadian athlete.

“I know they have a lot of snowboarders, skiers, skateboarders, a couple NASCAR drivers. You feel like a tight family. I got a couple tweets replaying to that shot from people I haven’t me yet that are on the brand,” Marner said. “I’m very happy to be a part of it. It feels like one family with that sponsorship. I’m excited to move forward with them.”

The drink brand had a similar deal with Dion Phaneuf when he was captain of the Leafs. Sources say the defenceman’s trade to Ottawa decreased their sponsorship exposure.

The former Leafs captain memorably got ripped back in 2014 for wearing a Red Bull hat during post-game interviews. Marner is well aware of the kerfuffle and sees no issue.

“I don’t wear hats during post-game. I keep it off and stay face-to-face,” Marner said. “Free time, I wear hats like everybody.”