According to Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe, no decision on what to do with the lineup ahead of Game 5 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs has been made, at least in regard to forward Michael Bunting. The winger is eligible to return from suspension but Keefe says a decision has yet to be made. The only thing that is a certainty is that Matthew Knies is NOT going to lose his spot in the lineup to make room.
“Matthew Knies is certainly not coming out of the lineup,” Keefe said Tuesday morning. He added, “He’s done a terrific job for us. So, he’s a guy who’s earned his spot and the opportunity to continue to play for us there.” Meanwhile, there are questions about Bunting’s trustworthiness and whether putting him back on the roster as the Leafs are gaining momentum in the series is a good idea. Bunting has spent most of this season arguing with the officials and wrestling with his reputation. He’s been a whiner, a complainer, and an embellisher and his antics have caught up with him. He’s talented, but to some, he’s also a liability.
For the Leafs, the question becomes what holds more value. Does what a useful and offensively-gifted Bunting brings work out to offer more than what the team loses by disrupting what’s working and inserting a player back into the lineup the officials are obviously watching? Keefe seems to think there could be a spot for Bunting, saying, “He’s a good option for us because he’s a good player for us.” But, if it isn’t Knies that comes out, who does?
Most Likely Line Changes for the Maple Leafs
The most likely candidates to come out are either Sam Lafferty or Zach Aston-Reese. Both are currently playing on the team’s fourth line, but even that’s not an easy decision. Keefe explained, “It’s not as easy or as simple as a decision as it may have been earlier in the series. We’re at a different time. So, we’ll take our time here and sort through it. We’ve got a group of guys that have played real hard.”
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