Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Simon Benoit shooting the puck
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Sheldon Keefe and Maple Leafs Reveal Reason for Scratching Defenseman

Published March 10, 2024 at 5:04 PM

The Toronto Maple leafs faced off against the Montreal Canadiens last night in what would have been a huge moment for Leafs defenseman Simon Benoit, who is a Montreal native. However, he was a healthy scratch thanks to a tough decision being made by Sheldon Keefe.

Keefe Explains Why Benoit Was Scratched Against Canadiens

The head coach had to explain the move to the media as fans and reporters alike were a bit taken aback by the move. This would have been Benoit's first career NHL game in his home town. Unfortunately for him though, the Leafs wanted to keep Timothy Liljegren in the lineup due to the fact that he shoots right.

"When [GM Brad Treliving] built the team, this was the six guys. And while we love the depth that Benoit has brought to us and his ability to come in [and play well], Lily playing tonight was important. It's important for us to continue to work with him."

That being said, Keefe did express some guilt in not playing Benoit. He revealed that the decision did not make him feel good, but he thought that it was the best lineup decision he could make.

Sheldon Keefe: «Quite frankly it kills me having to sit Simon Benoit tonight.»

Says the focus was keeping Timothy Liljegren's right shot in the lineup.

Leafs Fans Not Happy At Keefe For Scratching Benoit In Hometown

While the head coach gave a reasonable reason for Benoit being a healthy scratch last night, it still does not sit well with many Leafs fans. Some criticized the move, comparing him to Mike Babcock, one of the most notorious coaches in Leafs history.

Sheldon Keefe doing his best Mike Babcock impression sitting Simon Benoit in his home province of Quebec tonight.

Meanwhile, the Marlies are starting Keith Petruzzelli in his home state of Massachusetts tonight.


Others simply called the move dumb, noting that decisions like this can make a coach less popular with their players, often hurting the culture and atmosphere in the locker room. One fan called it a 'boneheaded' move. At the very least, it does seem a bit heartless.

I'm sorry but sitting Simon Benoit is the biggest bonehead move you could make. FFS Keefe 🙄

As seen on Leafs reveal controversial reason for sitting hard-hitting defenseman
March 10   |   1284 answers
Sheldon Keefe and Maple Leafs Reveal Reason for Scratching Defenseman

Do you think Keefe made the right choice to scratch Benoit last night?

Yes20616 %
No91471.2 %
Doesn't matter16412.8 %
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