Maple Leafs’ Keefe reflects on his ejection: ‘A chance for me to… grow’

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe receives a game misconduct and is ejected from the game late against the Vegas Golden Knights after voicing his displeasure on a penalty to Mitch Marner to the referees.

TORONTO — Still steaming from the heat of the battle, a win-streak-snapping 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, and his ejection from referee Garrett Rank, Sheldon Keefe didn’t want to go there Tuesday night.

But with a financial reprimand coming, a calmer version of the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach was more willing to address his often-testy conversations with the officials Thursday morning.

“I think there is a there is a fine line [with] being the voice for the players at different times, to try to be the voice so that they don’t have to be,” Keefe said, ahead of a rematch with the Arizona Coyotes (7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet Ontario and Sportsnet+).

“My job as a coach is to really make sure I’m focused on the next moment and what comes next. And I don’t feel like I lost control or anything like that the other night. But I’m not focused on the right thing. My job is to focus on the right thing. A player’s job is to focus on the right thing.

“So, I’ll be better in that area. It’s a chance for me to reflect and grow from it. And that’s really all I’ll say about it and move on.”

Keefe tore into Rank late in the loss for a soft tripping penalty delivered to Mitch Marner. The Knights drew four penalties in the game, the Leafs drew one.

Just as Marner’s “trip” was up for debate, so too should be Keefe’s temper with the stripes.

As a result of Tuesday’s outburst, the NHL slapped Keefe with a $25,000 fine “for unprofessional conduct directed at the officials that resulted in a game misconduct” Thursday afternoon. (The fine money goes to the NHL Foundation.)

This is the coach’s second such punishment.

Does complaining about borderline whistles earn you the benefit of the doubt next time around? Or does it earn you a reputation as a coach who berates officials?

Keefe had previously been fined $25,000 for “demeaning conduct directed at the officials” in December 2022.

GIFs of the bench boss giving a ref an earful aren’t hard to find. Yet he has been careful not to rip into the officials when speaking to reporters postgame.

Even after Tuesday’s frustrating loss, Keefe said the Leafs didn’t do enough to earn power plays.

There is very much a heat-of-the-moment thing at play here with a coach who believes his group can win every single night.

“He wants to win just as much as any guy in this room does. He’s been driving the ship of this group for the last few years. He’s done a great job. And he’s got our back, and we got his back,” forward Max Domi said.

“As a group, we love seeing him get fired up like that. It brings emotion. Obviously, the game started out great and then didn’t finish the way we liked it. But Keefer was upset with what was going on, and he had every right to be. So we have his back just like he does for us. And I loved it.”

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One-Timers: Joseph Woll is slated to start his first NHL game since suffering a high-ankle sprain on Dec. 7…. Connor Ingram gets the nod in net for the Coyotes…. Timothy Liljegren remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury…. After a rought game against Vegas on the left, T.J. Brodie will patrol the right side with partner Morgan Rielly…. The Maple Leafs plan to carry three goaltenders with Woll activated…. Arizona will look to snap a 13-game losing skid without their injured all-star, Clayton Keller.

Maple Leafs projected lineup Thursday vs. Arizona Coyotes

Knies – Matthews – Marner
Bertuzzi – Domi – Nylander
McMann – Tavares – Robertson
Hölmberg – Kämpf – Reaves

Rielly – Brodie
Benoit – McCabe
Giordano – Lagesson

Woll starts

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