March 20, 2023
Sheldon Keefe on Mitch Marner leaving Anaheim bank to smash a stick: 'I've got no problems with that... Guys gotta have outlets'

Sheldon Keefe on Mitch Marner leaving Anaheim bank to smash a stick: ‘I’ve got no problems with that… Guys gotta have outlets’

Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach

After Tuesday’s practice, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the Marlies’ recall of centerman Pontus Holmberg. the team’s mediocre 4-4-2 start, the heat the team is facing in the market and Matt Murray’s progress toward a return.

Practice Lines – November 1st

What was your message to the group today?

Keefe: Just that it’s nice to be home. The calendar moves to November. We have a new opportunity today to get back on home ice and get better in training. let’s go to work

How surprising is it that the team is where it’s been in 10 games?

Keefe: It is surprising. The expectations I had for the team and everyone for themselves are much higher than what we have shown so far. That means there are 10 games. We still have a lot of hockey to play. Let’s just focus on tomorrow.

What is the key for the team to turn things around and start accumulating wins?

Keefe: There are many areas of our game that we can improve. If you talk about our starts and the results we’ve had, I think the points we’ve been able to collect up to this point are probably even more than I would honestly expect based on our performance. That speaks to the skills and talent we have as a group.

My focus is solely on making our team play better. One area where we can improve the most is how connected we are and how we act as a group when coming out of our zone, getting through the neutral zone, and attacking from there.

I thought we were on our way there in Anaheim just in terms of our play with the puck. Our first period, especially the first 10 minutes, was really representative of what I think we can look like. We couldn’t keep it up, but we want to achieve that tomorrow.

So did you have a back-to-basics training focused on outlet passes and forward cycling?

Keefe: It really is. As for skills development, it’s just kind of an approach anyway before we move on to practice. It is in many ways our introduction or warm-up to practice. We like to get straight to the point.

There are a lot of fundamentals that we’re not currently executing at a high level – some of the things that we expect them to be really good at. It’s as simple as breaking out, being available for each other and being responsible for your touch and your pass. That was really the emphasis of the day: be good at that area and get us on the attack.

When you sat Mitch Marner for one shift, what was the message you wanted to convey? Is there any risk in doing something like this or public discipline?

Keefe: As a coach you make many decisions during the game. Sometimes you try to send a message to the player. Sometimes you try to send a message to the whole team. Every situation is different.

I thought that even then I was looking for a way to give Denis Malgin an extra shift here or there. This was an easy way to give Mitch some time to process things, knowing you’ll be bringing him right back.

These decisions are constantly being made with many of our players. It’s not Mitch’s first time, and it really isn’t a big deal.

Did you have a problem with him leaving the bench to smash a stick in that situation?

Keefe: No. Guys need to have valves and do what they need to do while working through things. You must have guys ready when the game starts. Mitch was. I have no problems with such things.

The best for us: Today is a new day and a new month. We got through the first 10 game segment here and will get back to work tomorrow. Today was a good training day. The guys energy was good which is what concerns you the most at this time of year when you come back from the road trip – how it went, how long it took, the time change and stuff like that.

The energy of the group was very good today. That gives me even more confidence for tomorrow.

When things don’t go well, there’s obviously a lot of attention on the coach. With a frustrated fan base and a frustrated city, those are the things that are being said right now. Do you feel you should be asking yourself some of these questions?

Keefe: The only thing I feel about it is that I have a job to do with the team. My job is to prepare the group for tomorrow and have a good day today. That’s absolutely my focus: focusing on my team, playing better as a group, and preparing for the Philadelphia Flyers. It really is. We talked about that today and focused on that.

What is the thinking behind Pontus Holmberg coming to the big club?

Keefe: We were really excited about the camp he had. With the numbers and the cap and all, we didn’t have enough room for him. We wanted to try a few other guys in the middle.

Obviously we tried different people during this road trip at Center Ice. We liked the idea of ​​having a natural center. He had a really good camp for us. We like a lot about him.

He went to the Marlies and by all accounts he took excellent care of him there. He’s not a guy who gets a lot of points, but he does a lot of things that go into winning. We’re glad to have him.

How is Matt Murray doing? He was back on the ice.

Keefe: He’s making good progress. It’s part of his plan. Today was the scheduled day. He met and stayed on that schedule. From that ending I think he’s doing fine. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him – and he wasn’t traveling – but I know that was the plan. It seems to have gone well there. He will just continue his process. I think he’s still pretty far away.

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