It is still unclear exactly what transpired on Saturday night between Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe and Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, but one thing is certain and that is that Keefe was sending a strong message to his young player.
Many were quick to notice that Nylander had largely been absent from the ice in the latter stages of the third period, but when it was all said it done it would turn out that Nylander had sat for the last 8:45 of the period entirely. This of course raised more than just a few eyebrows and Keefe was asked directly about what had transpired following the game.
Although Keefe would not give a direct answer when asked about Nylander, he did indicate that the player had done something while out on the ice that had drawn his ire. Specifically, Keefe noted that Nylander had gotten on his bad side while the Leafs were up over the Habs.
"I didn't like some of the things here today once we got the lead," admitted Keefe on Saturday night when asked about Nylander's benching.
This was no minor benching on the part of Keefe either and it may in fact have marked a low point in Nylander's time under the Leafs' bench boss. According to Leafs insider James Mirtle, Nylander got less than 14 minutes of total ice time on Saturday night which mark his lowest career total since all the way back in April of 2019. Perhaps more importantly than that though this marked the least amount of ice time that Nylander has ever been given under Sheldon Keefe, a clear sign that the coach was very displeased with what he saw.
Keefe would go on to provide a few additional clues regarding what had gone done, like indicating that Nylander had failed to match the pace set by his team in the third period, but never really narrowed it down to a single incident that led to the benching. Keefe did indicate that it was an accumulation of things rather than one single incident and given his responses this evening I am inclined to take him at his word.