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The Maple Leafs already have their stay at home defenceman: Simon Benoit

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
6 months ago
Here’s the thing about stay at home defencemen/shutdown defencemen/physical defenceman, whatever you want to call them, they always seem like the missing piece until you bring them in and watch them play. Much like how Conor Timmins is a perfectly fine bottom pairing puck mover there are perfectly fine stay at home defencemen and the Leafs might have one of those in Simon Benoit.
I’ll admit to loudly asking the question, “WHY?” at the time Benoit was signed. His numbers in Anaheim last season were terrible and it seemed baffling that the Maple Leafs would want to bring in a player that was seemingly weighing down John Klingberg. Clearly, I didn’t consider the possibility that John Klingberg was holding Simon Benoit back and of the two defencemen, Benoit has been the one I’ve been more comfortable seeing in the Maple Leafs line-up, albeit I wouldn’t want to see either outside of a third pairing situation.
It’s also worth appreciating that there were plenty of people upset about the departure of Luke Schenn in the offseason and here is how Simon Benoit is comparing to the beloved stay-at-home defender:
Benoit and Schenn have both been playing just under 15 minutes a night and Benoit has 42 hits to Schenn’s 41, although Benoit has played 3 more games. Benoit also has double the number of blocked shots at 24 and if you compare Benoit to Schenn’s regular season time in Toronto last year, Benoit has been playing more, blocking more shots, and has better on-ice numbers than Schenn did last season. It’s just that while Benoit hits plenty, he’s still a bit behind Schenn in that regard and they certainly aren’t as memorable and sometimes memorable matters.
So what is the point of talking about Simon Benoit? Well…when you consider that with Liljegren back in the Leafs lineup, and with Benoit, Lagesson, Timmins, and Giordano all being strong bottom pairing options that can fit a variety of situational needs, it seems a bit silly for the Maple Leafs to be looking at what else they can add at the bottom of their defensive depth chart. The Leafs shouldn’t be looking at more middle pairing and lower options when it comes to defensive additions, Toronto needs to be prioritizing a potential top pairing calibre defender. I can appreciate that this is easier said than done but I also think the Leafs are wise to wait to see if better options present themselves and in the absence of that at least find themselves in what should be less of a sellers’ market if the plan is to just add to depth in the bottom half of their NHL roster.
Simon Benoit hasn’t been perfect by any means. Watching him play the puck can be unpleasant at times and his style doesn’t mesh with a team that aggressively looks to create rushes out of defensive zone exits. (You’ll remember that the first thing Schenn pushed for when arriving in Toronto was that the defence should chip it off the glass more often as well.) Still for many situations a boring, stay at home defenceman is exactly what the Maple Leafs need and rather than paying for something similar at the trade deadline the Leafs are fortunate that have a player getting accustomed to their systems who might have something to add defensively down the stretch. And while Benoit might not be Luke Schenn (especially playoff Luke Schenn, he’s an adequate way of checking off the box for a physical stay-at-home defender.
Data sourced from Evolving Hockey and Hockey Reference
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