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Sheldon Keefe: "Kyle [Dubas] has confidence in the group… He will do what he needs to do in order to enhance our team" – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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After practice on Wednesday, Sheldon Keefe discussed Alex Galchenyuk joining a line with John Tavares and William Nylander, losing Jimmy Vesey to a waiver claim by the Canucks, the injury status of Jack Campbell and Wayne Simmonds, and Kyle Dubas’ commitment to adding to the group via trade before the deadline.


Practice Lines – March 17


A lot of changes on forward today. You lost Jimmy Vesey. Alex Galchenyuk and Wayne Simmonds are back with the group. Can you talk about the changes that are in store for your forward units?

Keefe: We will see how things move along here as we get through the rest of today and tomorrow. We are still waiting on Wayne and his status. Today’s practice and having him involved is an important part of his recovery and getting him back ready to play. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to in fact play this weekend. We will just see how he continues to progress.

In terms of Galchenyuk, it is similar. We wanted to bring him here and have him involved and utilize the fact that we have a rare opportunity to get some practice time in here today and tomorrow to have him around with our group. We haven’t made any determinations as to what we will end up doing as we get into the game. We don’t have all of the information quite yet.

What are the Canucks getting in Jimmy Vesey, and what are you going to miss?

Keefe: First of all, putting him on waivers is a difficult decision. Kyle, ultimately, made the decision there. Really, the reason for it is the flexibility within the roster. When you have players that are not eligible to be moved onto the taxi squad at any point in time, it creates some challenges. You can’t even really change the lineup.

There is a bit of a misconception that because you have the taxi squad guys, you can move players in and out all of the time, but you just can’t, especially with the salary cap and things like that. Your lineup is pretty much set. You need to create some flexibility, and to do that, you have to expose some players.

We think Jimmy brings a lot of value to a team. He did good things for us. He has a good skill set. He is a versatile guy who can play up and down the lineup. It didn’t work out for him here in the way that we thought it might with the opportunity we gave him early.

He has a lot of things that he brings to a team. He has done a lot of good things for us. We would’ve liked to have kept him for sure, but the system is what it is. It gives players these opportunities to move to a team that might have a different chance for him.

What potential do you see for Galchenyuk with those two — Nylander and Tavares — if you have him in this weekend?

Keefe: Rather than speaking to who he may play with or if he will play, it is more in terms of — with him and his skill set, we think he is a guy that can produce offense if he gets an opportunity to score. He can do that. He can also make plays.

Both in what I have observed and in watching some of his recent video — not just with the Marlies but with Ottawa, and now getting the feedback as we have gotten to know him more as a person with the Marlies in his time to rebuild himself, if you will — he has been terrific. He has worked hard. He has been very humble, for a guy who has never played in the American Hockey League, to go down and work the way that he has.

The staff down there, whether it is Greg Moore or all of the staff that has been working with the Marlies, can’t say enough good things about how he has handled himself, put in the work, and how he has been engaged with all of the players down there, helping that group get up and running.

We are thrilled to have him and thrilled with how he has conducted himself to date. The organization has put a lot of time and effort into him. He has received it very well. As much as you might think that is the way it should be, unfortunately, it is not the way it always is. It is a credit to how motivated he is to get this right.

Through that, it is very encouraging for us. It makes you want to give him the opportunity. Whether it is now or down the line, we certainly think he will get a chance.

Is the expectation that Jack Campbell might be able to go on Saturday?

Keefe: It is looking that way. We have been waiting on Campbell here for quite some time. It has been a day-to-day thing. He skated yesterday as well. Those have been his best days for sure. That has been very encouraging.

We are trending in that direction of him being available on the weekend, but again, we won’t know until we get through today, another day tomorrow, and how he responds and deals with that. But it has been very positive.

Did he have a setback at some time or has he been day-to-day for so long because it hasn’t healed?

Keefe: It is just a re-aggravation of the injury that he missed a great deal of time from. He came back in Edmonton there and re-aggravated it. It has been one of those things where they thought a few days might do the trick to kind of get him back, but it has just lingered.

I wouldn’t describe it as a setback necessarily, but more as a nagging thing that hasn’t had him feeling the way we need him to feel. He has been good enough to be able to skate and do different things to stay sharp, but in terms of being ready to play games, it has been kind of lingering.

That has been why we have been non-committal and unsure virtually every day. We have just been kind of waiting for that to settle a bit. It seems like it has, but he has some days to get through here as well.

Big picture, how do you think these couple of days to reset will help the team? What are your focus points for today?

Keefe: I certainly hope they are going to do a great deal to reset the group. There are a couple of phases to this little break here. We just went through two off days, which we thought were important in terms of getting the rest, both mental and physical.

Today, it is about coming back and really just getting back up and running again and not knocking the dust off that inevitably affects you after two days. Your timing and your passing and execution suffer a little bit when you take that rest. Today was the go-between between rest and what will be a full-blast, highly-competitive day tomorrow to get ourselves ready to play.

The expectation is that, whatever it might’ve been that caused us to dip a little bit here — whether it is fatigue, execution, habits, mental mistakes — between the practice time and the rest, our expectation is that those things should be fixed and we should be back to playing at our best. That is what our expectation is.

In his midseason availability yesterday, Kyle Dubas said he liked a lot about the team in the first half and is looking to add. In your experience, when the GM comes out and says that, does it resonate in the room? 

Keefe: I think it resonates. At the same time, Kyle is around enough and talks to players and me enough that it is not a surprise about how he feels about the group or anything like that. I think the group knows what his impressions and intentions are.

He believes in the group. He knows what we are capable of. He believes we will find our way out of this. I think we have earned that through the good times that we have had this season. We are going through a little bit of adversity here now. We are fortunate that it has landed at this point in the schedule like it has. It gives us reasons to get back to work and reset ourselves here.

Kyle is a very even-keeled guy. He has confidence in the group. He will do what he needs to do in order to enhance our group.

It is a challenging environment in which to make trades this season. What stands out to you the most about Kyle’s ability to be creative, stay ahead of the curve, and think outside of the box?

Keefe: I think he himself is all of those things you just mentioned: creative, progressive. At the same time, he has a great staff of people around him, whether it is the R&D staff or his support with management with Brandon Pridham and Laurence Gilman and, of course, Brendan Shanahan. Those guys, and how they work together with the scouting staff, kind of have everything covered in that sense.

They’ve had a lot of time to prepare as they always do. Myself, as a coach, I will just continue to do my thing here to get our group ready and be at our best with the players that we have. Everything else will take care of itself.

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Blue Jays blank Royals as Manoah makes marvellous Rogers Centre debut – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays celebrated a second win in two starts in their Rogers Centre return thanks to co-starring performances from rookie pitcher Alex Manoah and centre fielder George Springer.

Manoah tossed seven shutout innings while Springer smashed home runs in his first two at-bats in Toronto’s 4-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. The Blue Jays arrived back home in Toronto on Friday after 22 months away because of the Covid-19 pandemic, playing home games in Buffalo and Dunedin, Fla.

Manoah made a return of sorts, too. He injured himself two weeks ago, slipping on the rain-soaked steps of the Blue Jays dugout in Buffalo. He suffered a right-back contusion. He yielded only a pair of singles in his 89-pitch outing.

“It kind of got me pretty good,” Manoah said when asked about his fall. “It was a long couple of weeks, and I’m just so happy and so grateful to be back on that mound.

“Body felt really good; everything felt good. I was able to throw a lot of strikes and get the boys a win.”

The 23-year-old Manoah (3-1) knew he would be keyed up for his first Rogers Centre start. So he attempted to control his adrenaline with deep breaths. He didn’t have the velocity he exhibited earlier in the season.

However, he still managed four strikeouts and retired 16 Royals in a row between Ryan O’Hearn’s one-out single in the second inning and Hunter Dozier’s two-out base hit in the seventh.

“We thought he was going to be rusty,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoya said. “But he was throwing strikes.

“This kid didn’t have his best stuff, and he still can get you out.”

If Manoah can continue to chip in as he did on Saturday, the Blue Jays should have a scary starting rotation with their top four pitchers, led by Robbie Ray, Hyun Jin Ryu and newcomer Jose Berrios. The latter was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for shortstop/outfielder Austin Martin and right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson on Friday.

Berrios, scheduled to start for the Twins on Friday, was expected to arrive at Rogers Centre on Saturday evening. Montoyo plans to start his new pitcher in the series finale on Sunday afternoon if he deems himself ready.

“I’ll be waiting here for him,” Montoyo said in his post-game remarks.

The Blue Jays also had to wait for Springer to make an impact this summer. The free agent signed a six-year, $150-million US contract with Toronto last January. But a right-quadricep strain limited his playing time earlier this season.

He found his form in July. His first-pitch leadoff homer down the left-field line, for his 40th career leadoff round-tripper, and his third-inning two-run blast were his 10th and 11th home runs of the year. He now has gone 19-for-49 (.388) in his last 13 games with six doubles, six homers and 10 RBI.

“Obviously, this is where I wanted to play,” said Springer, who has reached base 50 times in his 34 outings in 2021. “This is home. For us to have a chance to come back here, to play in front of the fans, the atmosphere has been unbelievable the last couple of games. It’s exciting.”

After Manoah departed, the Blue Jays received some substantial relief pitching from lefty Ryan Borucki and Adam Cimber. Borucki got the first two outs in the eighth inning, while Cimber closed down the Royals (45-58) with four straight strikeouts to end the game.

The Blue Jays (53-48) have won three in a row and four of their last five.

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Toronto's Penny Oleksiak makes history as Canada swims to bronze in medley relay – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press


Published Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:23PM EDT


Last Updated Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:23PM EDT

TOKYO — Canada’s women capped Olympic swimming with a bronze medal in the medley relay Sunday and produced a historic seventh career medal for Penny Oleksiak.

Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla., Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Toronto’s Oleksiak touched in 3:52.60, a Canadian record.

Australia took gold with an Olympic-record 3:51.60. The Americans were close behind, finishing second in 3:51.73.

Oleksiak swam the anchor freestyle leg into the history books as the most decorated Olympian in Canadian history. The 21-year-old surpassed speedskater Cindy Klassen and speedskater-cyclist Clara Hughes at six medals apiece.

“Knowing that I have the best girls in the world to race with, I pretty much had a medal in the back of my mind the whole race,” Oleksiak said. “I’m racing with three of the best swimmers in the world, so why should I worry?”

The achievement says a lot about Oleksiak’s depth of talent, said Marnie McBean, Canada’s chef de mission.

“Winning one medal is hard, and multiple at one Games is all about the ability to reset and focus. Winning multiple medals at multiple Games — that is a battle against so much more,” McBean, a three-time Olympian, said in a statement.

“The notion of repeating and the burden of expectations, internally and externally, can be so disruptive. Penny figured out how to thrive all while being an amazing role model to young Canadians.”

Masse led Canada off in backstroke followed by Pickrem’s breaststroke leg and Mac Neil in butterfly.

As Mac Neil hung the medal around Oleksiak’s neck during the medal ceremony, Masse applauded and Pickrem shimmied in celebration.

“Most decorated,” they chorused during post-ceremony interviews with reporters.

Oleksiak, Mac Neil and Masse claimed their third medals at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Mac Neil, 21, also captured 100-metre butterfly gold. She and Oleksiak took silver in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay on the first day of finals, so Mac Neil leaves Tokyo with a complete set.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept Canada’s swim team out of the water for large chunks of the last 15 months. Mac Neil said that didn’t stop the swimmers from challenging the world in Tokyo.

“We’ve had one of the strictest lockdowns in the entire world, so it was just putting in the training that we’ve doing for the last 15 months in and showing the world what we have,” Mac Neil said.

Masse, 25, earned a pair of silver in backstroke. Oleksiak, who revealed Sunday she’d been dealing with an ongoing back injury, also claimed bronze in the 200-metre freestyle.

The women’s swim team amassed six medals in Tokyo to equal its Rio count of five years ago.

Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Pickrem, Mac Neil and Toronto’s Kayla Sanchez posted the fastest qualification time in Friday’s heats to give Canada a middle lane Sunday.

The medley relay medal was Canada’s first since 1988 and fourth in the 61-year Olympic history of race. Canadian women were bronze medallists in 1976, 1984 and ’88.

Oleksiak won 100-freestyle gold, 100-butterfly silver and anchored Canada to a pair of freestyle relay bronze medals at age 16 in Rio.

Heats, semifinals, finals and relays added up to 10 races over nine days for Oleksiak in Tokyo, where she added a pair of relay medals and the 200 free bronze to her total.

Canada’s men’s team finished seventh in the medley relay just minutes after the women left the pool Sunday.

Markus Thormeyer (backstroke), Gabe Mastromatteo (breaststroke), Joshua Liendo (butterfly) and Yuri Kisil (freestyle) finished in 3:32.42.

The U.S. took gold in the men’s event with a world record 3:26.78. Great Britain came second and Italy captured bronze.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.

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Kylie Masse won her second medal of the Summer Olympics – Sports – Castanet.net

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Make it an even dozen medals for Canada and a second for swimmer Kylie Masse at the Tokyo Olympics.

Masse won her second silver, finishing just behind Australian Kaylee McKeown in the women’s 200 metre backstroke.

She also won silver in the 100 backstroke.

Masse went out fast and led for much of the race. But, McKeown put on a strong kick over the final 25 metres to touch just ahead of Masse.

McKeown won in two minutes, 4.68 seconds, 74 one-hundredths ahead of Masse.

Masse’s time of 2:05.42 established a Canadian record in the event.

Kelowna-born Taylor Ruck was sixth in 2:08.24.

Masse joins Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak as double medalists at the Olympics.

Canada has a good chance for one final medal in the pool Saturday evening in the women’s 4×100 metre medley.

The team, which included Ruck, finished with the best time in their semi-final earlier in the day.

The roster for the team could change for the final.

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