Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach

Ahead of Saturday’s game against Nashville, Sheldon Keefe discussed Joseph Woll’s injury, Timothy Liljegren’s timeline for a return, and the start of the team’s dads trip.

Morning Skate Lines – Dec. 9

How did you take the news on Joseph Woll’s high-ankle sprain? Was it about what you were expecting or better than expected?

Keefe: I would say it was what I was told to expect the other night. I came to terms with the news pretty quickly the other night. It doesn’t change anything for me. Tough blow for our team. Tough blow for Joseph. But a tremendous opportunity now for the other two guys.

Samsonov, in particular, hasn’t played for quite a while and has been trying to find his game and trying to find a groove. Here you go.

Is it the same as Timothy Liljegren’s timeline with the same injury?

Keefe: It is right in line with that, but of course, the unique nature of playing the position is going to be the greatest challenge coming back. It is an undetermined period of time. It is more when he gets comfortable.

How is Joe taking the news?

Keefe: He is a little upset with himself. The way he looks at himself is that kind of missed his post when he was trying to play that shot. That put the extra stress on the joint. Obviously, he needs to let go of that and shake that off.

He has been through these things before. He has battled his way back. When he has, he’s come back an even better version of himself, which is a credit to him. We have seen tremendous growth in him off the ice away from the game, which for me is a big reason why we’re seeing his talent take over.

I have no doubts in my mind that he will handle this extremely well. The confidence that he has earned through this last stretch will motivate him to do everything in his power to come back even better.

Is there a target date in mind for Timothy Liljegren?

Keefe: Yeah, there is, but with the nature of that injury, we are just really not going to know until he can put full stress on it in full practice and in competition drills in practice.

He has been skating a lot on his own and has felt good. In talking to him and knowing the nature of these high-ankle sprains, when you really ramp up the starts, stops, and digging, it becomes that much more challenging.

We really don’t know, but he is getting to that point where you are going to see that. The challenge for us now is that we don’t have much practice time upcoming with this busy stretch, but we are going to do all that we can to keep building him up.

Is William Lagesson still sick?

Keefe: He is. We thought he was over it. He thought he was over it. He got some practice in earlier this week. Once we got out to Ottawa, it seemed to go the other way on him.

What do you like best about the dad’s trips?

Keefe: It is just such a special opportunity. We have the staff’s dads here as well this time. On a personal note, to have my dad a part of this is tremendous.

It just brings everything closer together. When you talk about your dad, as I said to the group this morning, if it is not your first phone call after a game, it is not long behind it, or the text messages that are exchanged. It is your first contact after a game. It is your first contact when you are going through something difficult.

We have them in our meetings when they are here, they can see the inner workings of the group, what is happening, and what we are talking about. They are spending time with each other and interacting with all of the different players.

It just brings the entire group closer together. It’s very similar when you have different events for the wives and kids. The more you can have everyone in and bring the families closer together, I think the group grows inside of that.

Those closest to you impact you, us, and all that we do. When we can bring everybody in and expose them to it, it helps everyone grow. It is just a tremendous opportunity.

I am a minor hockey dad myself. I am starting to get a real feel for the commitment that it takes to be able to raise hockey players and raise athletes. The time that you have to put in and the time associated with it is a lot.

For these players at this level, and the immense pride that their family has for them… To share in the experience is a wonderful concept or tradition that has come about in the NHL over the last number of years.

When you look at Ryan O’Reilly, what was the impact he had on the team in the short time that he was here?

Keefe: With the way that he trains and the way he goes about his business every day, it is very obvious how much of a professional he is. You see the time he spends off the ice and on the ice.

Despite his age and his accomplishments in the league, the routine and process he goes through to continue to play at a high level are impressive. We have talked about how John Tavares is one of those guys. O’Reilly is right there.

Both [O’Reilly] and Luke Schenn brought a lot to us in their short time with us. Both are tremendous guys. I had a chance to talk to them when we were down in Nashville. They enjoyed their time here. I think they are enjoying their time in Nashville. Both are tremendous leaders and professionals.