After Monday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed the upcoming in-person hearing for Morgan Rielly, the lineup adjustments during Rielly’s suspension, and the status of his injured players.
Practice Lines – Feb. 12
#Leafs lines during practice Feb. 12/24
Absent: Timmins (ill)@BodogCA
— David Alter (@dalter) February 12, 2024
What is your reaction to Morgan Rielly’s in-person hearing with the DoPS?
Keefe: Surprised just given we have spent a lot of time watching almost every cross-check that has happened in the last number of years. The ones that I thought were similar in nature to Morgan’s were nothing close to requiring that.
At the same time, I think there is a history of events that happen in Toronto and with the Leafs that get more attention and more hype. It tends to lead to something such as this. To that end, I am not surprised.
It is out of our hands. We will get ready to play tomorrow.
What are you hoping the DoPS will take into consideration given Rielly’s history over the years?
Keefe: I think it goes without saying the type of player that Morgan is. A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about him winning the Lady Byng and competing for that.
He is a pretty exemplary guy — not just on our team but in the league in terms of how he conducts himself and how he plays. He plays a good, hard, honest game, but he is very respectful and admired by his teammates and the opposition because of how he conducts himself.
Because of that, you know what his intentions are going into reacting to a situation like that. It is not to be malicious by any means, but it is to do his part to show that we didn’t like what happened. That is it.
When there is a hearing, what is your role as a coach in preparing for it?
Keefe: I have zero involvement in that. We have been through a number of these in the past. It seems like we have had to prepare for it more than anybody else in the league perhaps, but my involvement is zero. My role is to get ready for St. Louis.
Do you think the league is going to try to make an example of Rielly?
Keefe: That is not for me to answer. It is for them to answer.
Do you think the judgements are worse on players here because of the amount of media coverage or the team itself?
Keefe: It is not for me to answer. That is a question for others.
What is your sense of how Rielly is reacting to the situation?
Keefe: He is handling it well. I think he is disappointed that he has to go for a hearing and such, but he recognizes it is kind of the way things go.
Morgan has made it clear that he had no intention of the way that it looked or played out. He is going over there to make a point that he is not just going to let it go away. That is what I would expect any of our players to do. That is what I expect our opponent to do if we do something similar. It is sort of the way that it goes.
Morgan is good with it. He will go, plead his case, and see how it goes.
Why have you decided to pair Timothy Liljegren up with TJ Brodie?
Keefe: We just have to go through and look at different options. It is a chance for us to get Brodie playing on his left side.
I suspect that when you lose a player like Morgan — with the minutes and role that he plays — everybody is going to have to move around, play in different spots, and play with different people depending on the situation and to manage the minutes.
Any time you have someone out with an injury or whatever the case may be, you expect your team game to tighten up that much more and for the individuals to step up and take advantage of the opportunity.
How important is it for the team’s game to tighten up defensively, including the commitment from the forwards?
Keefe: That is what I am saying about the team game. Everybody has to play a little bit better, a little bit tighter, and a little bit more consistent — all of the things that we have been talking about.
We have managed these types of situations before when players have left the lineup in the past number of years. Morgan left last year with an injury. We thought it wasn’t good, but then we played our best hockey as a team and went on our best stretch. This year, already, we lost Auston unexpectedly in a game. It was a bit of a downer going into the game, but it turned out to be one of our most dominant performances of the season.
You never know how these things go, but in the past, our group has stepped up. We will require more of the same.
What are you wanting to see from Liljegren as he moves up?
Keefe: Lily has played in this spot before. He has played in these situations. He has played well for us. Just accept it and know that you are going to be needed. Do a job and play as he is capable of playing.
Lily is like a lot of other areas of our game. He has played some good hockey for us. At times, there are some mistakes or whatever it might be, but he has played well for us. I expect he will do the same.
Any time you are all of a sudden needed that much more, you think that much less. You just go out and play. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to a player, too.
Joe Woll was back at practice for the first time in a long time. What is his status?
Keefe: Today was an important step just to get him more reps and to have his own net. That is why Jones got some work in before practice and a little bit while we were getting going there outside of the practice.
Getting Joe tested a little bit more today, it looks like he got through it well. I haven’t talked to him today — more the medical people — but they will chart his path going forward. Today was a good step.
Is there an update on Conor Timmins?
Keefe: No update. He has an appointment today that is going to help chart the course for him. He is still not feeling well. He is going to be unavailable for tomorrow for sure. We will have more for you after his appointment today.
How about Mark Giordano or David Kampf?
Keefe: We will have to see how they wake up tomorrow and how they’re feeling, but in Gio’s case, it was more whether he could get his skate on and feel good out there. He said he did — in fact, he felt better with the skate on than off. That is encouraging.
Kampf seems like he is good. It is just a matter of making sure things don’t tighten up or get worse for him tomorrow.