Canada

NHL draft notebook: Keefe confident Dubas will get Leafs the necessary tools

MONTREAL – Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is usually in the middle of the action.

He was more than happy to play the role of interested observer at the NHL draft.

Keefe was on the Bell Centre floor in Montreal this week as the team’s management and scouts waded through the available prospects.

“The coach doesn’t really have a whole lot of role in the draft,” Keefe said Friday. “We’ve got a ton of great people that have put in a lot of work.”

One area where Keefe will be paying close attention in the next week or so will be the team’s goaltending.

Toronto traded the disappointing Petr Mrazek and his US$3.8-million salary cap hit to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, while No. 1 option Jack Campbell is poised to hit unrestricted free agency when the market opens Wednesday.

Keefe said he’s confident general manager Kyle Dubas will provide the coaching staff the necessary talent.

“It’s not an easy process to go through,” said the coach. “But I’ve got full trust and faith … it’s a complex situation any time you’re going into an off-season in today’s NHL with the flat cap and all these kinds of things. But if you look at the work that they were able to accomplish last season, I’ve got all the faith in the world that they’ll give us all the tools that we need to add or replace from what we had last season.

“The core of our group will remain by and large the same, and get back to work.”

With a couple of months to reflect, Keefe added the pain of another opening-round playoff exit remains.

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe yells at the referee while playing against the Detroit Red Wings during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, October 30, 2021.

Toronto had the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on the ropes, but lost Game 6 on the road in overtime despite leading in the third period before falling in Game 7 on home ice.

The Lightning went onto make a third straight final, but fell to the Colorado Avalanche in six games.

“The emotion of the loss, you still feel that,” Keefe said. “Yet you still have the believe in your team.”

‘WE NEED TO BE BETTER’

With a sexual abuse scandal continuing to plague Hockey Canada, one Hall of Famer is calling for the sport to do more.

“I just know, for us in the hockey world, we need to be better with these kind of things and how we handle them and understand that it’s not acceptable and it shouldn’t happen,” said Cammi Granato, an assistant general manager for the Vancouver Canucks.

“How we look at these issues, instead of brushing them under the rug, they need to be dealt with.”

Her comments follow revelations that Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit last month with a woman who alleged she was assaulted by eight players, including members of the 2018 world junior team, at a gala event four years ago. The allegations have not been proved in court.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denied that the league has a culture problem, saying the issue of sexual violence persists well beyond hockey.

“There are problems in all sports and throughout society that are unacceptable,” he said. “We’re no different in that regard from anybody else.

“I certainly don’t think that’s an issue at the NHL level. I can’t speak to the other levels of hockey. Not to suggest that makes it OK, but there are instances in other sports that are unacceptable.”

The league is conducting an investigation into what happened in 2018 because some of the unnamed players are believed to be playing in the NHL.

PETEY 2.0

It was deja vu for Canucks fans on Friday.

With the 80th overall pick, Vancouver selected Elias Pettersson.

Finding a jersey for the Swedish defenceman may prove tricky, though. The Canucks already has an Elias Pettersson — the team’s 23-year-old star centre.

Vancouver chose the original Pettersson fifth overall in the 2017 draft, and he’s since put up 221 points (97 points, 124 assists) in 245 games.

The new addition said he’s never met the player with whom he shares a name, but is excited to be part of the same organization.

“It’s just amazing,” the new Elias Pettersson said.

-With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2022.

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