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Maple Leafs’ Nylander Escapes Benching, Now We’re Guessing Why?

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe first benched William Nylander and then reversed his decision. What happened in between?

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The explanation boiled down to (a) Discussions happened and (b) circumstances changed. Now, we can only guess what that might mean.

Related: With Zach Hyman Out, Timing’s Perfect for New Maple Leafs’ Nick Foligno

We Can’t Be Really Sure What Happened to Change Things, Only that Things Changed

When William Nylander was late to a Toronto Maple Leafs’ team meeting, head coach Sheldon Keefe almost immediately announced he wouldn’t play on Tuesday night. Keefe then proceeded to dress Nylander in a grey taxi squad uniform during Monday’s practice. Today, it was announced that “circumstances had changed” and Nylander would play – in fact, he did.

In a Sportsnet interview before the game, Keefe went in front of the media to explain why he was playing instead of sitting.

One can chalk the Maple Leafs’ head coach’s decision to play Nylander to the fact that the team realized it needed his scoring or because Ilya Mikheyev was unable to play. But listening to Keefe speak, it didn’t seem like that was the deal at all.

We might never know, and it’s probably best if we didn’t. Honestly, one would have to have a recording of the “discussions” that occurred to really know. Why? Because Keefe was not very forthcoming. In fact, his announcement was about as vague as vague could be.

The Video Shows Keefe’s Manner and Offers His Explanation

When I watch the video and listen to the explanation Keefe offers, I wonder what happened. Keefe’s attitude is far from upbeat. He seems quiet and reserved – maybe even a bit discouraged? It almost makes me wonder if others had intervened and weighed into the situation to encourage Keefe to change his mind. Still, that’s me reading too much into the video – isn’t it?

In the video, Keefe explains his decision to play Nylander after he was late for team meeting. Keefe’s decision seems to hinge on the decision to opt towards growth instead of punishment. Something moved the dial from No to Yes. But what?

Guessing What the Gist of Keefe’s Announcement Might Be

So, what happened? We don’t know, for sure; however, here’s what Keefe noted earlier on Tuesday.

“We had discussions, and circumstances changed since the initial decision was made (to discipline Nylander at Monday’s practice). The situation allowed us to have some good discussions as a team that will not only serve William well but the entire team, as well, in terms of accountability.”

As I say, if we care – and maybe we shouldn’t (although we are fans after all), we’re left guessing what those discussions might have been. Keefe was asked if the idea of having to engage in the conversation about accountability right now -as the team is heading into the playoffs (10 games to go) – is disappointing. He answered: “Yeah, of course.”

Keefe Offers in Some Hints; Seems Disappointed

Keefe noted that “It (assuming he means Nylander’s late arrival) speaks to the level of focus that we need and that’s why we responded the way we did (at practice Monday), we don’t just brush it aside.”

William Nylander, Maple Leafs

Then Keefe added: “Everything is controlled, how you do something is how you do everything. Responsibility falls on everyone, everyone has to be focused at a higher level, whether it’s a meeting or on the ice.” [He’s believing that how players act off the ice impacts their game on the ice.]

Keefe noted, “We had meetings, we’re better for it. It’s not about punishment, it’s about growth.”

And a final comment from Keefe: “William will play (Tuesday) and our team is better with him in the lineup.”

Related: Leafs to Bench William Nylander for Being Late, Hyman Injury Update

As Fans, If We Care (and We Don’t Have to), We’re Left Guessing

As I say, it’s hard to know what went on. But one has to guess that it included a team-wide discussion and that the players themselves weighed in on the matter at hand. Perhaps we’ll hear more about what happened at a later date – perhaps it will stay buried in the team’s closet.

All we know is that Nylander was late to a team meeting. At first it was announced he would be benched. Then it was announced that he’d play. And the reason given was that discussions had happened and circumstances had changed.

Something went on, and it must be important. But what? We are simply left guessing.

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