Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs

Sheldon Keefe talks about Auston Matthews’ absence from practice, Bobby McMann call

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After practice Tuesday, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the AHL Player of the Week call-up Bobby McMann, Auston Matthews’ absence from practice, TJ Brodie’s injury status and the depth of his defense. .

Practice Lines – January 10

Note: It’s a maintenance day for Auston Matthews (morning skate decision on availability for Wednesday vs. NSH); TJ Brodie has been placed on IR with a rib injury.

Is there any update on the status of Auston Matthews?

Keefe: It’s just a maintenance day for him. We’ll see where it goes tomorrow, but nothing to worry about too much at the moment.

Is there any concern that you might miss tomorrow’s game?

Keefe: We’ll see where it is tomorrow.

What about the status of TJ Brodie?

Keefe:As I mentioned, he’s been playing through something. Some additional tests were done yesterday. It’s something that’s going to take a bit of time to figure out. Instead of him continuing to play through that, we’re going to put him on the GO and give him some time to recover.

Do you have any idea about the duration of the recovery and the details of the injury?

Keefe: Nothing too long. It’s a rib injury. It’s not related to what happened before.

What allowed Bobby McMann to receive this opportunity with the call-up?

Keefe: He is a player that we like a lot. He’s a guy we were really excited to come to camp with. We really wanted to see him compete for a position. I didn’t think he’d have as good a camp as we’d hoped or he’d even hoped. Maybe he showed the fact that while he is an older player, that was his first NHL camp with us.

He was not at camp with us the year before. He had a great season with the Marlies. He had an injury early in the season this year, and then, since he came back, he seems to have started to work. He has really found his game. He was player of the week after a great week.

With the fact that we had a roster spot so we could call someone up, it made a lot of sense, as long as he has that positive momentum, to bring him back and put him in our mix.

There used to be this thinking in the league that if a player didn’t make it at 22 or 23, teams dumped him. That has changed now. What do you think about giving players their first break in their mid-20s?

Keefe: The margins to win are very small. You’re trying to improve one percent wherever you can. I don’t think age, draft or contract status comes into play that much. You’re just trying to get better.

As for us, there’s the faith we have in the Marlies and the ability we have to get players to AHL contracts. In many ways, they are like free eraser options to bring in and put into our show. No matter the contract status, we treat guys like they are part of our organization.

In Bobby’s case, he’s been here the last few offseasons training with our guys. He is with the group. You can see the development. They end up being great players in the AHL and show that they have potential in the NHL. Here we are.

I don’t know your status [for tomorrow’s game]. His situation will be connected to Auston’s. We’ll take it from there, but as I said earlier about him not having training camp with us, having this experience to come here and be a part of our group helps him down the road in case we can put him in the game.

Is there any area where you’ve seen bigger steps from William Nylander than others?

Keefe: I think it’s just more consistency. He hasn’t had any lulls or dips in his game. When he has done it, he has returned it very quickly. That’s what it’s really about.

It has never been a question about his ability. We’ve all known him as a great player and a guy who can run the game, who can create offense and finish. He’s doing it more consistently this year.

That’s why he’s been a great player for us. I like a lot of things about his game. He has earned everything he has gotten for sure.

Is there more patience in your game when you have the puck on the stick?

Keefe: I’m not sure. He’s always been a guy who hasn’t had a problem with that: very poised and very good in the neutral zone.

I don’t think I’ve necessarily seen something very different in his game like that, except that it’s happening more often. Maybe within that comes increased confidence and arrogance to just hang on and do your thing. I think you’re seeing it a little more often.

He’s always had that ability. She has certainly shown it several times.

How do you think the skills of Mark Giordano and Conor Timmins complement each other?

Keefe: I think Gio has shown the ability to pair well with anyone, regardless of skill set and with a variety of different backgrounds and skill sets. That gives us the confidence that no matter who we put him with, he can help them.

In Timmins’ case, he’s a guy who has shown that if he touches the puck on our side, it will usually end up on our stick and help us get off our side quickly. That helps Gio’s game.

In that sense, it is a good pairing. There are a few things that we were looking for in terms of how it could match up. Through that game, we like what we saw. We will continue with that.

Any time you lose a guy like Brodie out of your lineup, as we’ve seen above, Dean [Chynoweth] on the backend it’s going to move things around and play players in different places with different partners. In terms of how we’ll start and how we’ll line up, we like this combination.

Is this the deepest defensive core you’ve had since you’ve been here?

Keefe: I think it’s fair to say. Losing a guy like Muzz takes a big chunk out of your lineup for sure. As we’ve seen, I don’t know how many defensemen we’ve played this season (10, 11, 12), but we’ve used a lot of guys. Everyone has stepped up.

We’ve talked about how we didn’t have Carl Dahlstrom available, and we still don’t have him available, but that’s another guy that looks like he’s going to come into the mix at some point.

In terms of the depth that’s here with the eight that we have right now, seven with Brodie out, plus the Marlies guys, we have great confidence in them. More importantly, perhaps, our team play has underpinned everyone.

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