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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised at Ford Performance Centre on Tuesday before travelling to Detroit for Wednesday's game against the Red Wings.

Does Mitch Marner hope the revelation this week that Mike Babcock tried a controversial motivational tactic on him during the 2016-17 season will inspire others around the hockey world to come forward? 

"If people want to share their stories, do it," Marner said. "If they don't want to hold it in, it's your story to tell … If something's happened to someone and they feel like it should get out, then let it out."

But Marner made it clear that this "unfortunate" situation is now well in his past. The Toronto Sun reported on Sunday that during Marner’s rookie season, Babcock asked him to rank the team's players by work ethic and then showed the list to some of the lower-ranked players. 

Marner says he's not sure how the story got out and he has no desire to rehash it. He's also quick to point out his relationship with Babcock improved in subsequent seasons. Marner led the Leafs in scoring the last two years and led all Toronto forwards in ice time last season. 

"My second and third year, he really trusted me out on the ice," Marner said, "and I think you could see that and I felt he had the trust in me to put me out there in situations that he didn't in my first year. I had a pretty good relationship with him at the end of it."

Marner actually reached out to Babcock last week after he was relieved of his coaching duties. 

"I texted him right after and I just said, 'Thanks,' for everything he did here. He turned around this team and this franchise and I just said, 'Good luck wherever it takes you next.'"


Sheldon Keefe was asked how much coaching has evolved over the years, specifically when it comes to motivating players. 

"There has been a lot of change in that regard," Toronto’s new bench boss said. "I try to deal more directly, try to deal more in a positive nature as much as possible. I think players respond well to that and (I) try to be be constructive. But, you know, every situation is different, every situation calls for something different. I don't know if there's really one style."

While positive energy is on the menu now, Keefe has shown in the past he's ready to crack the whip. 

"I feel he's been hard on me, but that's because he cares and wants me to be a better player and I respect him for that," said right winger Kasperi Kapanen, one of 13 current Leafs who played for Keefe in the AHL. "He always expects a lot out of me especially in practice and some days I might've been a little sleepy and wasn't really motivated and he straightened me out."​

What does Marner think works best on him: tough love or positive reinforcement? 

"No idea," the 22-year-old said. "I mean, everyone has different coaching tactics … It's not up to me to decide what coaches are like. Our job as players is to come in every day and play for whoever's running this team and, as a unit, stay close with each other and stay together and make sure we're working."

Unlocking potential is a key part of a coach's job and that often leads to psychological tactics. Jason Spezza, who has played 1,080 NHL games, knows this all too well. He's played for old-school coaches like Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff. 

"I think at different stages of your career, at different points of your life, you need different types of approaches," Spezza said. "Bryan Murray was one of the biggest influences in my career and I was probably the brunt of his criticism and a whipping boy a lot of times, but it brought the best out in me. He knew how to push my buttons and we had a great relationship."

What did Murray do? 

"He would be on me in practice, he would be on me on off-days, he'd call me into the office, he'd show me clips," said Spezza with a smile. "He was relentless on me in trying to make me a better player and that's what I really wanted. I really enjoy feedback, especially back then, I was trying to be the best, I was trying to be a leader of our team and he made sure that I was going to try to get there."

But motivational tactics can often fall in a grey area. How far is too far? It's often not as black and white as the situation with Marner and Babcock with the coach later apologizing to the player.

And Spezza isn't necessarily keen to see a flurry of players airing grievances in the media. 

"You don't want anybody to feel uncomfortable in the dressing room, but I think, as you would with your family, you want to deal with things in house before you deal with things publicly," Spezza said. "I think that if you have a strong nucleus in your locker room (it) should be a positive environment where nobody feels threatened and, in turn, then I think you take care of things in your house, too. No, I don't love stuff being aired publicly but I see why guys feel like they need to get it out there."


Much like GM Kyle Dubas, Keefe seeks insight from coaches and executives in other sports. 

"The ones that stand out to me are the guys like (Gregg) Popovich out in San Antonio and Joe Maddon in MLB and a number of coaches in the NFL," Keefe said. "Sean McVay, of course, and Pete Carroll, those type of guys I spend a lot of time reading about and watching and trying to learn from." 

There's also a role model closer to home, who has shown what a first-year coach can do. Keefe notes he has also been inspired by Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who guided the Raptors to a title in his first year at the helm. 


Michael Hutchinson will start one of the games this weekend – Friday or Saturday – against the Sabres. Why are the Leafs going with Hutchinson instead of Kasimir Kaskisuo?

"Hutch has gone down to the Marlies and played very well," noted Keefe. "He's got three games now, he played two games on the weekend, so he’s gotten those reps. Hutch has played and is sharp and has the experience and we want to give him another chance."

Hutchinson is 0-4-1 this season in the NHL with an .879 save percentage, but he is 3-0-0 with a .942 save percentage with the Marlies. 

Kaskisuo, who was sent back to the Marlies on Monday, made his NHL debut on Nov. 16 allowing six goals in a loss to the Penguins. 


Lines at Tuesday's practice: 

Johnsson - Matthews - Nylander
Mikheyev - Tavares - Hyman
Petan - Spezza - Kapanen
Engvall - Gauthier - Timashov
Shore, Kerfoot 

Rielly - Ceci
Muzzin - Holl
Dermott - Barrie


Power-play units at Tuesday's practice: 

Barrie - Nylander - Matthews

Kapanen - Petan - Spezza