TORONTO – Relief and appreciation.
Those are the feelings Mitch Marner experienced when he answered a phone call from a Toronto Police detective a couple of days ago and was informed that two of the three carjackers who snatched the hockey star’s vehicle at knife- and gunpoint had been arrested.
Marner — who had spoken about the lingering mental effects of the frightening incident as recently as January — felt a rush of gratitude.
“It’s great. Strictly because that problem has been going for a while now in Toronto,” Marner told reporters Friday at the Maple Leafs’ practice facility, mere blocks from the parking lot where the robbery occurred in May.
“It’s pretty hard to try to narrow these people down because of what they’re doing, what they’re wearing and hiding their faces so well. It puts a lot of trust in the Toronto Police and knowing they’re getting the job done and not stopping and they’re trying to fix this problem. It’s a great relief to get that off the streets. We want this place to be safe.
“This past year it hasn’t felt like that. It’s felt chaotic and crazy.”
On May 16, three thieves arrived outside a Queensway movie theatre in a black Honda Civic at sundown, threatened Marner and fiancée Stephanie LaChance, then took off in Marner’s black 2021 Land Rover.
One unidentified male suspect is still outstanding, according to the police report. He is to be considered armed and dangerous.
Marner said that he and Lachance were bowled over by the outpouring of support once the carjacking went public.
“Throughout late nights or just weird atmospheres, you get weird vibes sometimes,” Marner said.
“It’s something that still kind of goes in your mind every once in a while, when you’re getting into car late night or something. You never know what’s gonna happen. You gotta be aware of your surroundings.”
The investigators had been keeping Marner in the loop throughout their pursuit, but he had been trying not to let that scary night creep into his mind.
He says he’ll be happy to stop talking about it and will try to forget it.
“It’s nice to have that closure,” Marner said.
Why Keefe keeps experimenting with seven defencemen
With the Maple Leafs taking two days off after flying home from a three-time-zone, five-game road trip that spanned their hectic trade deadline, three new faces were finally introduced to the club’s training facility Friday.
Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty, and Erik Gustafsson participated in their first home-ice practice. Luke Schenn 2.0 still hasn’t touched down in Toronto.
Keefe says that Schenn remains in Vancouver to attend the birth of a new baby. The club is supportive of Schenn’s decision to put family first, and the defenceman has been skating on his own.
Even with Schenn absent, the Leafs will once again deploy an 11-forward, seven-defenceman lineup Saturday in their revenge match against the red-hot Edmonton Oilers, who scorched the Leafs 5-2 last week in Alberta.
With Ryan O’Reilly on the shelf and six new pieces to jigsaw into his lineup, Keefe has been committed to line juggling and experimentation this month.
With 18 games on the schedule until the post-season begins, Keefe says the decision to dress an extra blueliner has more to do with keeping all D-men involved than it does with finding the best three pairings.
As Keefe & Co. monitor energy levels and chemistry during the flow of the game, he says the 11/7 setup demands more of the coaching staff and the players.
A natural rhythm is sacrificed in favour of inclusion and research.
Take Saturday’s incomplete line of John Tavares and Michael Bunting for instance. There will be a rotation on right wing, and perhaps Keefe will discover a combination he likes for April
Ultimately, Saturday’s look feels a long way off from the optimal group Keefe throws over the boards in Game 83.
We’d be stunned if the Maple Leafs don’t roll with a 12/6 approach in the playoffs.
“It’s not easy to jump into a new team, new system, new players and get acclimated to new teammates,” Auston Matthews told reporters.
“It takes time.”
One-Timers: Alex Steeves projects to be a healthy scratch. The callup skated just 6:11 and was a dash-1 in Tuesday’s comeback win over New Jersey…. Pontus Holmberg has been returned to the Marlies.… A trio of former Leafs — Zach Hyman, Cody Ceci, and Jack Campbell — led the centre-ice stretch at the Oilers’ Friday practice…. Beloved in Toronto, homegrown Hyman received a video tribute in his return last winter. Unfortunately, only a few fans were allowed inside Scotiabank Arena for that one due to a provincial lockdown. Curious to see his reception Saturday. “Well, he already had his video. So hopefully he doesn’t get another one,” Marner deadpanned.
Maple Leafs projected 11/7 lines vs. Edmonton Oilers Saturday
Kerfoot – Matthews – Marner
Bunting – Tavares
Nylander – Lafferty – Järnkrok
Aston-Reese – Kämpf – Acciari
McCabe – Brodie
Rielly – Holl
Giordano – Liljegren