“I hated everything about it”: Sheldon Keefe addresses Leafs’ lack of response to Liljegren injury
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
When Timothy Liljegren was injured by a Brad Marchand trip on Thursday, the Leafs decided to turn the other cheek instead of responding to it in kind.
Despite possessing a number of worthy combatants to this type of situation in Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Max Domi, there was no pushback to send a message to Marchand or the rest of the Bruins to dissipate any further incidents. This left a lot of the fan base feeling upset that the Leafs have still not shaken off their reputation of being a soft team and that these moments have occurred far too frequently in the Matthews era.
Sheldon Keefe felt the same way, and he told reporters on Saturday that this was addressed.
While he understood that the players likely wouldn’t have been able to tell in the heat of the moment what had occurred, he hated that nothing was done after the revelation was unearthed regarding the nature of Marchand’s infraction with Liljegren. Keefe is not wrong in saying that there have been instances where the Leafs did respond properly, but those were the exceptions and not the norm which is why he stressed the importance of consistently answering the bell.
It’s no secret that Leafs fans want their teams to have an identity of being difficult to play against and one that will make the opponents feel sore by the end of the night. Why else do large portions of the fanbase long for the team to be less like their current iteration and more like the teams of the 90s and early 2000s? So when Brad Treliving took over as GM and added a number of players that play a more hardnosed game, it was collectively seen as a breath of fresh air and evolving the Leafs back into the ideal style.
Obviously, the new additions have not fully clicked yet, but the returning faces have also not shown enough urgency in terms of situations like what transpired on Thursday night. The big four especially have not consistently answered the call when one of their teammates gets hurt over the last seven years and it is the repeated pattern of inaction that has driven portions of Leafs Nation going nuts that this glaring problem has not been addressed.
A number of people will presume that this is due to Keefe preventing the players from playing greasy, but he values it as that is how he conducted himself during his playing career.
He is certainly on the same page as Treliving and Brendan Shanahan in terms of how they want the Leafs to be in those situations, so it is simply on the players to frequently respond when called upon to stick up for themselves. Judging by what Reaves, John Tavares, and John Klingberg said to the media regarding the lack of a response, the Leafs players have certainly taken to heart what their coach told them afterwards.
There are two possible ways the Leafs go from their disgraceful nonresponse to Marchand injuring Liljegren. They could be more vigilant for a bit to show signs that they have a different mentality only to revert back to their old habits, or this moment is used as a rallying cry to finally change their mindset for the better. With the season being 82 games long, that is plenty of time to work on that aspect of their game to be better equipped when it matters the most. Then again, this has been a problem for over half a decade and there have not been any signs that they can collectively live up to the “Bay Street Bullies” moniker.
Either way, it will certainly be interesting to watch how the Leafs rectify it both internally and through transactions. At the very least, Keefe and the coaching staff recognize that this is a massive problem and it has been addressed behind closed doors so now it’s in the players’ hands to change their leaguewide reputation.
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