Ilya Lyubushkin in his first tour with the Leafs
Photo credit: MSN

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe shares feelings about the addition of Ilya Lyubushkin

Published March 2, 2024 at 10:19

After icing 6 left-shot defenders in back-to-back games after Timothy Liljegren suffered an undisclosed injury, combined with the injury to Mark Giordano, it was clear that the Leafs needed some reinforcements, which GM Brad Treliving was happy to provide, pulling off a deal for right-shot blueliner Ilya Lyubushkin, who returns to Toronto after short stints with the Sabres and Ducks.

Lyubushkin wasn't viewed as a needle-mover ahead of the deadline, but for the Leafs, his ability to kill plays at their blueline combined with his physicality, PK abilities, shot blocking and the fact that he plays on the right side, the fit was just too good to pass up.

Sheldon Keefe spoke about the trade on Friday and seems quite excited to have Lyubushkin back in the fold in Toronto. Keefe spoke about the Russian defenseman in a very positive light after the trade, believing fully that Lyubushkin can help this group.

"I think it helps us for sure. We are familiar with him, and when he came here in the past, he helped us both in what he brings and the type of player that he is. He is ultra-competitive, physical, and strong, and he doesn't back down to anyone or any situation. He plays the game hard and honest.

He is a right shot, and we have talked enough about that to know the importance of that. That in and of itself allows some things to settle into place, which is where the additional boost comes from.

Part of it is what Boosh himself brings. Part of it is how it impacts the rest of the D core. I think it is a good move and we are happy to have him. There is familiarity with the players and staff that was here. Everyone really enjoyed their time with him. I certainly did.

It was good timing, too, of course." - Keefe on the Lyubushkin addition

In terms of how involved Keefe was in the decision to bring Lyubushkin back, he confirmed on Friday that he and Treliving have had a number of discussions about the idea and confirmed that he had previously enjoyed coaching Lyubushkin.

"We had conversations about it over the last little while. He just wanted to know my perspective on my time with him. I haven't seen much of him (recently) other than us preparing to play against him, but in his time here, I really enjoyed coaching him. He got along very well with the players. He fit in well. I know Tre talked to some of the guys as well and got their perspective.

You have confidence that he would fit in not only with the players who have been here but with the group, the coaching staff, and the training staff. At this time of the year, I think it is something to help with that transition for players coming into a team that is trying to win and be competitive. A guy who has some familiarity that can ease the transition is helpful."

If Keefe has his way, he told the media on Friday that he would like to have Lyubushkin in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers, visa situation permitting, so we'll see where that goes and how Keefe plans to deploy him. Lyubushkin had some chemistry with Morgan Rielly the last time he was acquired by the Leafs, so that seems like a logical starting point for him in his second tour of duty in Toronto.

March 2   |   529 answers
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe shares feelings about the addition of Ilya Lyubushkin

Who would you play Ilya Lyubushkin with in his return to Toronto?

Morgan Rielly41378.1 %
Jake McCabe7013.2 %
T.J. Brodie468.7 %
Simon Benoit00 %
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