William Nylander
Photo credit: USA Today Sports

Sheldon Keefe provides explanation as to why he benched William Nylander

Published March 5, 2024 at 10:17
BY MIKE ARMENTI

For weeks now, the Leafs have been rolling, and any time a team is doing well and winning a lot of games, it can become difficult to keep your foot on the gas and avoid allowing mistakes to occur. Such was the case for William Nylander on Saturday, as he decided to try to cheat on offense, jumping the zone before he had the puck, leading to a goal against.

As a result of the Alexis Lafreniere goal on Saturday, Sheldon Keefe planted Nylander's backside on the bench for the final 7 and a half minutes of the 1st period, with Nylander not seeing another shift after the goal until the 2nd period. As it turns out, the benching was just what Nylander needed to center himself and he came back and scored a huge goal in a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers.

Keefe did not discuss Nylander's benching in detail following Saturday's game, but did explain his decision on Monday following practice. Keefe told the media that he had noticed Nylander "purposely stepping outside of the structure" to try to create an offensive chance for himself, rather than playing team defense in the Leafs' end of the ice. He also sent a message for his team that nobody is above being held accountable for their actions.

"We're increasing the accountability for all of our players in these situations"



I'll bet Nylander thinks twice before blowing the zone without the puck again in the future, which is exactly the message that Keefe was attempting to send. Well, message sent and message received, as Nylander had a solid remainder of his game on Saturday. Keefe even commended Nylander for the way he handled the benching.

Unfortunately, the Leafs didn't experience much success against the Bruins last night, but Nylander also didn't look nearly as risky in his own zone last night either. Hopefully he can pay better attention to the details of his game moving forward, which will only help the team given how incredibly talented the Stockholm native truly is.

POLL
March 5   |   365 answers
Sheldon Keefe provides explanation as to why he benched William Nylander

Do you think Sheldon Keefe would have the stones to bench Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner if they did the same thing Nylander did?

Yes12032.9 %
Not a chance18951.8 %
Neither would cheat and blow the zone like that5615.3 %
LIST OF POLL
Latest 10 stories