Babcock expects to pair Rielly with Hainsey: ‘We needed a partner for him’

Posted: 13/08/2017 in NHL, Sports
Tags: , , , , , , ,
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When Ron Hainsey was added to the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ roster last month, Toronto fans weren’t exactly singing the veteran’s praises. But, after listening to head coach Mike Babcock’s rationale for his acquisition, Leafs supporters may change their tunes.

According to Babcock, Hainsey is in The Six to lend support to Toronto’s No. 1 blue-liner Morgan Rielly – a player for whom the Leafs have high expectations.

“We feel Rielly’s a real, real good player. We want him to be upper echelon in the league so we needed a partner for him,” Babcock said Monday, according to NHL.com’s Dave McCarthy.

Despite being 36 years old with 900-plus games of NHL wear and tear, Babcock feels Hainsey can bring more to the table than just a wealth of experience, and expects the rugged rearguard to complement a defensive group that took major strides last season.

“Well, we like our D better than I read about,” Babcock said, according to McCarthy. “I thought our D really improved last year.”

Toronto also took a significant step as a group, qualifying for the playoffs for only the second time in 12 seasons. On the heels of a campaign in which so many of his players had excellent years, Babcock recognizes that choosing a roster will be a lot harder this training camp compared to last.

“Too many good players for the 23 spots,” Babcock told McCarthy.

Both Hainsey and Rielly are locks for the 23-man roster, and both will be counted on to carry the defensive load for a Leafs club that allowed the ninth-most goals per game last season at 2.85.

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