Sheldon Keefe appears to take a shot at former Leafs GM Kyle Dubas

Mike Armenti
March 30, 2024  (10:26)

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe speaking with the media in Toronto
Photo credit: NHL, Maple Leafs

Following yesterday's announcement in Toronto regarding Leafs defenseman Simon Benoit and his new 3-year contract extension, Leafs Nation rejoiced, thrilled by the fact that Benoit will be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Benoit has quickly become a fan favourite in Toronto for the hard-nosed brand of hockey he plays and the strong defensive play that he has exhibited over the course of the year when he's been in the lineup. Now, he's going to be a part of the future of the team beyond this season and Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe counts himself among those who are happy to see it.

Keefe admitted on Friday that when the team originally signed Benoit this past August, there was really not a spot available to him on the main roster. He was brought in as a depth guy who might only see spot action. Well, with his play this season, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that the Leafs' bench boss saw a bigger role for him. When asked on Friday what the message for both Benoit and fellow recent signee Bobby McMann would be going forward. Here's what Keefe had to say on that topic:
"The first thing is that the organization believes in them. That is really important. It is a reward for the work that they have done, but it is also the belief you have in them. Not only are they playing important parts on the team now, but we also believe they are going to continue to get better and be important parts of the team going forward."

Keefe's next comment has been viewed as a bit of a jab at former GM Kyle Dubas, who has essentially emptied the cupboards in Toronto before he left and, during his stint as GM of the Leafs, brought in a revolving door of bargain bin players instead of trying to build a team that was able to build chemistry over more than one season. During Dubas' time in Toronto, the pieces going in and out throughout the roster left the remaining players to pick up the pieces and form chemistry with new linemates every season. It was clear from Keefe's response that he didn't really approve of this type of system and has enjoyed how new GM Brad Treliving operates.
"I don't know how many players I have coached in my time here, but I have coached a lot of players, and a lot of guys have come and gone. Some continuity and having guys you are bringing along who are growing with the team is really important. In McMann and Benoit's cases, we think they are guys who can continue to grow with the group."

With the Leafs having locked up McMann and Benoit for multiple seasons, barring a trade, they're now up to 11 players coming back to fill roster spots with the team next year. If you factor in both Fraser Minten and Easton Cowan, that makes 13 players locked up with just 10 roster spots - mostly depth spots - needing to be filled this summer. The team has a number of restricted free agents as well, including Nicholas Robertson, Timothy Liljegren, Connor Dewar, and Noah Gregor. If each player is either signed or accepts their qualifying offers, that will put the Leafs at 17/23 players, leaving Treliving to fill just 5 or 6 roster spots to fill in free agency, which may even become less if Tyler Bertuzzi and/or Max Domi is brought back.
The Leafs are finally in a position where they can carry some momentum and some chemistry across multiple seasons with very little turnover. That could end up being vital to the success of the team in the seasons ahead.
30 MARS   |   343 ANSWERS
Sheldon Keefe appears to take a shot at former Leafs GM Kyle Dubas

Do you think Sheldon Keefe took a bit of a shot at Kyle Dubas following the Simon Benoit and Bobby McMann signings?

Yes, it's pretty clear23969.7 %
No, that's just twisting the context10430.3 %
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