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Maple Leafs’ William Nylander Benched in 5-3 Win Over Canadiens

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on a winning streak, but is everything good in the land of the Blue & White? What’s up with William Nylander?

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As games go, the Toronto Maple Leafs victory over the Montreal Canadiens was true to the script that the Maple Leafs were trying to write all season long. The Maple Leafs stars shone, and the team left Montreal with a 5-3 road victory.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Joe Thornton Is Growing More Jumbo Every Game

It’s All Good, Except for One Small Thing

Everything in the game looked good, except for one “tiny” thing. During the third period of the game, Maple Leafs’ forward William Nylander was benched by head coach Sheldon Keefe. Later, Keefe was asked about that benching by the media, and you can hear his comments below.

Specifically, in the video, Keefe explains that he benched Nylander against the Canadiens because he didn’t lift himself to the level his teammates were playing at.

William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (via sportingnews)

Although Keefe wouldn’t talk about the Nylander’s season in total when he was asked, he did speak about this particular game. His rationale was that the team had started to play the way he wanted them to play during the third period of the game; and, the truth was that Nylander didn’t match that same level of play.

Reading the body language from watching the video below, it’s clear from the way Keefe sort of shrugs his shoulders, moves his head, shuffles in his seat, and sometimes takes a break between talking that he’s either (a) a bit lost for words or (b) frustrated in his trying to answer a question he wished hadn’t been asked in the first place. And, he wasn’t blaming that frustration on the reporter asking the question.

Keefe Was Clear that Nylander Wasn’t Injured

When asked a multiple-choice question that listed a number of reasons Nylander might have been benched, Keefe was clear that the answer wasn’t that Nylander was injured. 

He did suggest that Nylander had been looking as if he were going to break out of his scoring slump; and, in fact, to my eyes, Nylander started the game flying during the first period. However, Nylander obviously didn’t sustain that intensity in Keefe’s eyes and couldn’t keep up with the remainder of the Maple Leafs’ players.

Keefe Has Shown Nylander Tough Love Before

It isn’t as if Nylander hasn’t been shown tough love before by a Maple Leafs coach. In fact, life hasn’t always been smooth between Keefe and Nylander. On December 21, 2019, against the Detroit Red Wings, coach Keefe showed Nylander some tough love and benched him for being uninvolved on the backcheck. (from “Leafs bench Nylander and Kapanen in win over Red Wings, Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, 21/12/19).

Three of the Maple Leafs Stars via

The good news is that Nylander took the lesson to heart, accepted the criticism, and then went on a roll where he picked up his game. At the end of December and in early January 2020, Nylander responded by going on a long point-scoring streak. He even scored five goals in five games and 13 goals in 16 games immediately after that benching.

Related: Mike Babcock Lands a New Coaching Gig Outside the NHL

Is the Benching Keefe Deploying a Similar Strategy?

Do you think Keefe recalls that and wants to light a similar fire? Sadly, perhaps, Nylander might be one of those players who need a measure of direct instruction – every once in a while.

We’ll see how he does over his next 10 games or so.



  1. Pierre Daoust

    February 21, 2021 at 5:53 am

    Maybe the fact that ice time has been significantly reduced for stars like him and Tavares is leading to some frustrations for these players. I can’t understand why the likes of an old Thornton, Hyman, and even Boyd can play instead of them on the first PP unit! Most be hard on them!

    • NHL Trade Talk

      February 21, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      Let’s hope it’s not a matter of ice time that would be upsetting these players. This is a team who has struggled with playoff success. You’d hope most would do whatever is needed to be part of a team that can actually win in the postseason and get a Stanley Cup, regardless of how much or how little they play.

  2. James Lahey

    February 21, 2021 at 7:09 am

    Nylander needs a change of scenery to wake up his game. Nylander is not getting the job done is why he’s not on the 1st PP. Trade him for drafts picks and/or prospects if the leafs can’t get equal value 1 for 1. Trade him to Calgary for Bennett and a prospect.

    • NHL Trade Talk

      February 21, 2021 at 12:27 pm

      I get the sense Keefe really knows how to deal with Nylander based on their extensive history. I would be hesitant to move him unless the Leafs have another plan that upgrades another area significantly.

  3. Pingback: Toronto Maple Leafs Have Eyes on Specific Target In Trade Market

  4. Roy Peters

    February 22, 2021 at 7:57 am

    I would say that Nylander has to be on the clock type worker and always be prodded and praised to work, I do not see him being traded and if the Leafs trade anyone on the team it will be prospects and maybe include Dermott who is not getting better.

  5. Pingback: Toronto Maple Leafs Have Eyes on Specific Target In Trade Market - SPORTWN

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