Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe
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Sheldon Keefe identifies one Leafs blueliner who has really stood out this season

Published February 16, 2024 at 11:46

When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Simon Benoit to a 1-year, $775K deal at the end of August this past off-season, no one thought that he would become such a staple on the blueline, let alone playing in the top-four. Thanks to a handful of injuries and now Morgan Rielly's suspension, Benoit has been forced to take on more responsibility and more difficult minutes and has surprisingly thrived with the increased role. Not only has Benoit become an integral part of the Leafs' blueline, but his physical, crash-and-bang style of play has quickly led him to becoming a fan favourite.

Following the Leafs' 4-3 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers last night, a game that saw Benoit throw a massive hit and fight Nick Deslauriers, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was asked about his recent play and how he has taken on a larger role as the season has gone on. Keefe had quite the response, jokingly calling out the undrafted free agent.

"I have to be careful. The last time I talked really positively about him, I thought he had his worst game the next time out, said Keefe"

Keefe was also very complimentary of the Quebec native, however, and has noticed how is game has improved and how he has become a "glue guy" in the room.

"He has been very important. He is becoming a very popular teammate as well both in his personality and with how he plays. How he plays allows his personality to come through and come out. It allows him to be comfortable. He knows he is a meaningful piece of our team. He is just a competitor and also such a great defender. He is in your way. He has a good stick on you. But he has been tremendous for us. He is a really fun guy to coach. He wants to work. He wants to learn. He asks questions. He has a good personality. He comes here with a smile. I think he is having a lot of fun."

The fit between Benoit and the Leafs seems perfect, and last week, Benoit admitted to The Athletic that he has enjoyed his time here so far and would like to get something long-term done to remain a Leaf. Benoit is an RFA at the end of the season and has arbitration rights, so as long as the Leafs qualify him, we will see him wear number 2 in the blue and white again next season. For now though, Benoit continues to be a steady presence, doing all of the little things right. In 38 games with the Leafs this season he has 1 goal, 3 points to go along with 61 blocks and 129 hits and is averaging slightly over 16 minutes per game. He has become the perfect 3rd pairing defenseman for the Leafs and has filled in amicably in the top-4 when called upon.

February 16   |   835 answers
Sheldon Keefe identifies one Leafs blueliner who has really stood out this season

Did you expect Benoit to have the impact he has had on the blueline back when they signed him in August?

Yes, I've always believed in Benny17921.4 %
No, he seemed like a stop-gap to me27833.3 %
I saw him as a nice addition, but not this good37845.3 %
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