Toronto bench boss Sheldon Keefe has garnered a lot of praise for reshaping the Maple Leafs' defensive approach this season and its paying off with consideration for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s coach of the year.
- The Jack Adams award goes to the NHL coach who has been the most responsible for the team's success that year. And, unfortunately, it's always turned out to be the "hey, you were supposed to be bad, but you're not bad, so here's the Jack Adams Award" award. And I've been thinking about it, and I've been pondering about it. Is it weird that Sheldon Keefe hasn't gotten any consideration for the Jack Adams Award?
Level with me for a second. I know you have a team like the Leafs that has top scorers-- Matthews, Nylander, Marner. I get it. But this has probably been the most defensively responsible Toronto Maple Leafs team we have seen in years-- definitely in the Matthews era. And you can't tell me that's not Keefe's doing. This is what Keefe has been saying for years about the commitment to defense and focusing on game management and game awareness and playing the right way.
You have players who probably could be scoring a lot more points but aren't. If you look at the NHL leaderboards-- yeah, there are Leafs in the top 30, but we're used to seeing Leafs in the top 10 and the top 15. And they're hovering around there. But for the most part, they're just trucking along because, again, the focus isn't on scoring. The focus is on winning. And you're seeing Keefe-- he's talking on the bench. He's talking about process. The details. Again, the awareness, the commitment to defense from everyone, not just the defensemen.
The fact that the Leafs lost Brodie, Riley, Sandin, all of these defensemen at once and their defensive play never took a significant dive-- I don't know how you can look at that, and then not say that, wow, Keefe is doing a really good job. Now, I know, around the league, there are a lot of teams who, again, we thought were going to be bad and, now, they're not. So they're probably going to Jack Adams consideration there.
I don't know if it's going to be a nomination or something, but I do think Sheldon Keefe should get a lot of recognition for how the Leafs are playing this year, especially when you consider the fact that there was a time where a lot of us-- yeah, Leafs fans and non-Leafs fans-- who were calling for Sheldon Keefe to be fired. He lost the room. Maybe this could be the end of the Keefe era.
But he's turned it around. He's got the team to buy in, 100%, and it's working and it's paying off. And, yes, every year, we get excited for the playoffs. I get excited for the playoffs. I say this team is different. I say this team feels different. And then, we're disappointed. But I am so curious to see how this newly-coached Sheldon Keefe team performs in the playoffs because, again, they just look like a team that understands the assignment, and Sheldon Keefe's been a pretty good teacher.