Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Keefe, Sandin, Jarnkrok & Kerfoot

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at news from last night’s 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Included in the news is a rare display by head coach Sheldon Keefe of his frustration with his players at yesterday’s practice. Second, I’ll share the news that young defender Rasmus Sandin signed a two-year contract with the team earlier this morning. 

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Third, I’ll talk about the unique situation that presented itself during the game last night. Both Alex Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok switched from their regular forward positions and played a ton of minutes on the blue line. What Is interesting about this move is that it shows what kind of ultimate pros these two players are. Such actions bode well for the team in the long run because it’s a good example of what it takes for the team to come together to push toward the ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup.

Item One: Perhaps Head Coach Sheldon Keefe’s Intensity Worked

Word before last night’s game was that during practice Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe had stopped practice to show his frustration with the intensity that his charges were showing on the ice. In fact, he stopped it twice – the second time only 20 seconds after the first.

Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Not seeing what he wanted from his players during the practice drill, he had the entire team do on-ice sprints. As Jonas Siegel of The Athletic noted, it isn’t a regular practice behavior for the Maple Leafs’ coach. It obviously had an effect. 

During last night’s 3-0 win over the Canadiens, the Maple Leafs had more hits than the Canadiens 41-39. And, while that’s only two hits more than their opponents, it was interesting to see who registered the most hits on the team. Kyle Clifford had four hits, which is to be expected. However, the two other players with four hits each were Denis Malgin and Pontus Holmberg. Bobby McMann was credited with seven hits. All three obviously want to make this roster.

Item Two: Finally It’s Done: Sandin Signs Two-Year Deal

Early this morning it was announced that Rasmus Sandin had signed the very same contract that Timothy Liljegren had signed during the early offseason. It was for two years at $2.8 million total.  

Related: Paul Henderson: More Than Just “The Goal”

The timing is good given that both Jordie Benn (with a groin injury) and Carl Dahlstrom (with a shoulder injury) went down in last night’s preseason game against the Canadiens. We’ll obviously learn “something” more about the reasons for the hesitation in signing later.

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sandin should be back on the ice for his first practice sessions at training camp soon; however, don’t look for him to play against the Ottawa Senators in Friday’s game. That said, things look good for him to be in the lineup for the team’s opening game.

Item Three: Coach Keefe’s Favorite Players Took Shifts on Defense

You’ve got to think there’s a reason why Alex Kerfoot wasn’t traded during the offseason. Perhaps one thing that glides under the radar is that Kerfoot might be one of coach Keefe’s favorite players. Obviously, for the first two weeks of the preseason, it’s clear that the other one is Calle Jarnkrok. 

Related: Calgary Flames: The Failed Calle Jarnkrok Experiment

Both these guys are pros. They are versatile; they do their work without complaining; and, they put the team first over their own needs. By the way, the same can be said about David Kampf and, I hear, Zach Aston-Reese as well. If my thinking is correct, we should pencil Aston-Reese in for a roster spot immediately.

We knew that Jarnkrok and Kerfoot were hybrid centers/wingers, but until last night we didn’t know just how hybrid they were. In an emergency, which last night was, they can also play defense as well as forward. Furthermore, given the Canadiens’ lack of success going at the two new defenders, they did a credible job in their new task.

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After the game, we learned that coach Keefe didn’t ask either of them, he just called them over during the first intermission to reveal the plan. They complied. Both players seem to carry the same team ethos – do what you’re told and don’t worry if the team doesn’t build things around your personal needs. Keefe knew both players would embrace the challenge by Keefe jumping right in.

No wonder the word is that Keefe likes both these players and has been playing them together. The word is also out that Kerfoot is excited about being on the same line as Jarnkrok. I know it’s too early to make much of preseason, except that I look forward right now to a line with these two together – perhaps even playing with William Nylander? 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

It’s a curious case for Nick Robertson’s attempt to make this roster. You can’t say that coach Keefe hasn’t given him a fair shake to make an impression. To Robertson’s credit, he scored. That’s what he has to do.

Related: Maple Leafs Nick Robertson: The Cost of Chasing His Dream

However, Keefe also noted that Robertson was trying to do too much sometimes. It would be a shame if Robertson were unable to measure his game so as to take advantage of his obvious skills and not put himself into compromising situations that hurt the team.

So far, mixed results on the young prospect.


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