Sheldon Keefe has to go because someone has to go
It appears unlikely the Maple Leafs will run it back next season without making major changes to either the playing staff or management. Head coach Sheldon Keefe seems the most likely target to lose his job in the aftermath of Toronto's second-round loss to the Panthers, whether for organizational optics or because his tactics and style proved unsuccessful in the playoffs.
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: First of all, like disappointing because it's another year in which you hit a brick wall. I mean, not in the first term, in the second round, when you were the-- you are the higher senior, you're supposed to do better than this. But I don't know, I really am at a loss right now, because this should have been the team that was going to go further to a Conference Final or maybe to a Cup Final. I do think, I-- of course, you know, as far as it's back, matches will be back. I don't see how she'll keep returns.
I think, you know, the scapegoat is Sheldon Keefe. I think his coaching time is more now in Toronto. But what I don't think, I saw this argument a lot is, oh, bring in a tyrant. Bring in Darryl Sutter. Bring in a hard-- no.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What?
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: Those kind of coaches-- the show life for those coaches is maybe two, three years at the most. Those old tyrant type of coaches will not connect with this roster or any roster around the league. The answer--
SAM CHANG: They already got that coach.
ARUN SRINIVASAN: Yeah.
SAM CHANG: They had that coach. It didn't go well.
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: The answer is not a coach whose peak came in 1995. It isn't.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: But I'm also curious like where-- like I don't know the coaching tree, the assistants, really well with Toronto, but like who do you bring in? Because you can't bring in a tyrant, you can't bring in an old fogey. Do you let like an assistant or whoever coaching the Marley's right now coach, or do you purely get an external hire or someone on the outside? Like I mean, people in Calgary, for example, want Andrew Brunette, for example. Like is that the guy who gets the most out of that?
But considering the offense that the team is able to generate the regular season, is that the fit? Like I'm very curious if they let go of Sheldon Keefe, which I think is the right thing to do, I'm very curious about like where that next option is going to be. But it's unfortunate for Sheldon because of what he's done the regular season. But considering you can't really move on from John Tavares, William Nylander might be the easiest piece of the core four to move. Do you really want to do that?
If you move on from Auston Matthews, you might as well start deconstructing the roster right away. Is Mitch Marner the guy who's going to move at the salary that he has? The easiest thing to do is to get rid of Sheldon Keefe. And it seems like off of what Arun has been saying or what other people are saying. It feels like we should just be waiting any day now until that decision is made.
ARUN SRINIVASAN: That's the way it seems man. I mean, I think they're protected. I think to answer your question, I think internally, like Spencer Carbery might, if they want promote from within, might be the guy. You know, Manny Malhotra was the lead. This on the bench, you know. Does his lack of head coaching experience will hurt him? I'm not sure. But again, this being the Toronto Maple Leafs and being a huge market job with a lot of talent on it, I think it would be an attractive option for a lot of other coaches.
I do wholeheartedly agree with the idea that they're not going to go for a hard line disciplinarian like Darryl Sutter. They've already had that guy, as Sam said, like they've already had that. I think they need to find sort of the happy medium between a player's coach like Keefe and sort of, I guess a relic of the past in Babcock. Who that is that? I that Gerald? Is that Gerard Gallant? Who knows? You know, but I would like-- as we said last week, I would like sort of the coaching search to be expanded to as many candidates as possible.
If Keefe's gone, why didn't that net for sure? Who knows, it might be like an outside the box thinker that we haven't even considered. But again, like it does seem that it starts with Keefe. And to your point, like if you're going to not retain Auston Matthews, what's the point of team building anyway? Like what's the point of it all? I think we get so caught up in like what pieces are next, what big moves are next, contracts, all this. If you don't want to build your team around Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, there's no point even building a team to start with
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. You might have to move on. Let's hold some of those thoughts on Mitch and Auston for a second, because there is a weird thing I kind of want to do. I didn't write it in the notes immediately, but I wonder if it's too early, or maybe now's the right time to do who stays, who goes. Like I-- maybe it is too early, maybe it's very hard for us to do, but I think it's worth asking those questions with at least six people. So you look basically at the core four, and then Sheldon Keefe, and then Kyle Dubas.
And I think we're all-- unless Sam has a different thinking, I think we're all unanimous in saying that Sheldon Keefe probably has to go. Am I wrong?
SAM CHANG: I think he has to go, but only because someone has to go and not for any-- not for any really good reason other than I think optics and just the feeling that something has to be done. But like I think people for all the hand-wringing, like it's not like Florida. I appreciate the point difference and that Florida squeaked in. But like Florida is an underperforming team in the regular season. Let's not pretend this wasn't the President's Trophy winner last year.
ARUN SRINIVASAN: Yeah.
SAM CHANG: Right? Like they were a team that did worse than everyone expected, and they upset Boston, like upset Boston. But it wasn't like-- it wasn't something that should be like a massive surprise. It wasn't-- it's not a Cinderella run by any means. That is a good team.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: They're a good team. They made a massive change in the offseason, like one massive change in the offseason, just changed everything. Well, technically two, because they change coaches, but like the biggest one we'll think of is the good truck trade, and it has obviously benefited them to this point. It'd be the greatest day in franchise history.
ARUN SRINIVASAN: It's good that you guys mentioned that because those examples were cited at the end of the press conference, both like, you know--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Absolutely.
ARUN SRINIVASAN: That like, look, we're going for all options and then he cited the truck trade as, you know, yeah, sort of like-- I can't believe I'm losing a word. As a precedent, there you go. And Keefe did sort of cite like several times, not even just today, but throughout the series, that the Panthers won the President's Trophy. I do think if there is an argument beyond hand-wringing to get rid of Keefe is that he got comprehensively coached by John Cooper in two series, including this one where they won and Paul Murray's.
You know, this idea that, you know, Keefe, if there is sort of this growing notion that he tends to overthink matchups. And I think that was certainly true this playoff run, last playoff run, you know. So he's not he's not a bad coach, but he-- like he has this reactive style. You know, like focusing on how do we mitigate Sam Bennett's impact when you have Auston Matthews seems like just like the height of overthinking. So if there is like sort of a tactical reason to get rid of him, I think that would be it.