Nick Robertson has had an up-and-down season. When he’s down (with the Toronto Marlies) he produces like crazy; but, when he’s up (on the Maple Leafs’ roster) he’s had some great games and then some so-so games.
It doesn’t help that (a) Denis Malgin seems to be able to be effective anywhere in the lineup, including the bottom six; and, (b) Pontus Holmberg has emerged as a third-line center who, as Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe has said, he just doesn’t seem to make mistakes when he’s on the ice.
Robertson Hasn’t Been Able to Make a Case for Sticking
Not the same with Robertson. When he’s been in the lineup, he’s scored; but, he’s also made some mistakes. As a result, Robertson just doesn’t do enough to stay in the lineup. He’s been a healthy scratch for several games now.
To Robertson’s credit, he’s pragmatic about being up with the big club. He’s noted that he’s learning even though he’s not playing. And, in a humorous way, he likes the money. [He earns $70,000 with the Marlies and $796,667 pro-rated when he’s with the Maple Leafs.]
Robertson has gone on record as saying, “It is what it is. I try to be positive, whether it’s in my favor or not.” However, when he adds that “anything can change in this industry,” you can tell that he’s feeling a bit distant from what’s happening with him and the team.
Coach Keefe Believes in Robertson and Thinks He’s Working Hard
Coach Keefe has regularly reported that Robertson is working his butt off to stay ready. And, that’s good because, as noted today, Robertson will draw into the lineup tonight against the San Jose Sharks.
He’ll be given another chance. But can he keep that spot in the lineup?
Keefe’s Comments During the Interview
Coach Keefe was asked point blank during the interview why he decided to give Robertson a start. Specifically, the questioner asked Keefe if Robertson would be in the lineup tomorrow. Keefe said a simple “Yes.”
Keefe was then asked how he decides who’s the extra guy. Was it a question of rotating his players to keep them fresh? Or did they show him something in practice? How does he decide?
Keefe responded by saying that it was “more just watching each game as it happens, trying to make the right decision for our team.” In some cases, Keefe noted that the players who are playing “tell me that I shouldn’t mess with this (making a change) and let it go. Then sometimes the door opens, and you know it gives you an opportunity to make a change.”
Keefe Was Reluctant to Make a Change While the Team Was Winning
Keefe suggested that one reason that Robertson has been sitting is that “when the team is going well, you don’t make changes just for the sake of making changes. You make a change because you feel like it may improve the team’s ability to win the next game.”
Keefe also suggested that, as a coach, he might just simply give an opportunity to somebody who hasn’t played in a while “because, generally, you don’t like guys (to sit) for a long time.”
Keefe noted that player decisions such as whether to play Robertson or not were “daily discussions after you talk about what you see coming off a game.” In this case, Keefe believed that the team has “played a lot of hockey here of late,” which includes the travel. As a result, he’d “like to be able to use your depth.”
Keefe Believes Robertson Will Help the Maple Leafs Win
In summary, Robertson is playing not because anyone else is necessarily playing poorly. Instead, Robertson will draw in because the team’s played a lot recently and Keefe believes that Robertson will help the Maple Leafs win.
We’ll see tonight. Good luck to Robertson.
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