The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without defenceman Morgan Rielly for a minimum of eight weeks, the team announced Monday.
The blueliner suffered the injury Sunday as his team faced off against the Florida Panthers. Rielly was blocking an Aleksander Barkov shot when the injury occurred. He had a CT scan Monday afternoon and was diagnosed with a fractured foot. He will be reassessed in eight weeks by medical staff.
The real issue is not the particulars of the injury but what it means for the Maple Leafs, of course.
Rielly is the team’s most active player, averaging 24:15 of ice time a game. He’s also part of the squad’s mounting stack of bruised combatants, including Jake Muzzin and Ilya Mikheyev. Muzzin was placed on the IR recently. He was also injured blocking a shot with his foot and his shutdown ability has certainly been missed.
This whole scenario has tested head coach Sheldon Keefe, who has lineups to juggle – and then some – and has to figure out a way to weather the storm. The playoff hopes of the Maple Leafs are shaky at best, but this Rielly harm really pushes all the wrong buttons.just
“He’s a team-first guy and he’s out there doing everything he can for us,” said Keefe. “He’s an important guy for our team, and we’ve seen the improvements with his game.”
Anyone who’s anyone knows that Toronto’s weak spot is the D, something the loss of Muzzin has pinpointed and something this loss of Rielly will shine a spotlight on. The Maple Leafs have had to utilize depth charges like Martin Marincin in the top four, while they’re also likely to see more of the likes of Travis Dermott and Justin Holl. They also recalled Rasmus Sandin from the Marlies.
Rielly is coming off a season in which he finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting and put together 20 goals. He’s playing through obvious pain and it pays to note that this injury, such as it is, will at least force him to take some much-needed R&R.
Is there a silver lining beyond that? For this season, possibly not. The Maple Leafs have to punch up their game to get into the post-season and that’s going to be harder to do without Rielly. But in the meantime, they can learn a lot about themselves. And we can learn how this squad comes together to face adversity.
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