Toronto Maple Leafs: Sheldon Keefe will have to prove he can handle pressure

Kyle Dubas GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and President Brendan Shanahan. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Kyle Dubas GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and President Brendan Shanahan. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Sheldon Keefe finally gets his chance to be an NHL head coach and the pressure will be at an all-time high as he tries to get the Toronto Maple Leafs back on track.

After firing head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs did the next logical thing in promoting Sheldon Keefe from the Toronto Marlies to take over head coaching duties.

The move doesn’t come as a complete surprise as there have been rumblings over the last couple weeks that a change might be coming, but the timing did catch people off guard a bit.

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Keefe makes his NHL coaching debut tonight against the Arizona Coyotes and brings with it an impressive minor league track record. He is known for his tenure with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where he helped to quickly turn the franchise around in his first full season as head coach during the 2013-2014 season leading them to a 44-17-7 record. The following season the team put up an even more impressive 54-12-2 record and Keefe won OHL coach of the year.

Keefe then moved on to coach the Toronto Marlies, where he led the team to their first Calder Cup in 2018.

There is familiarity here. GM Kyle Dubas was the one who hired Keefe in Sault Ste. Marie, as he was the general manager at the time.

He then also hired Keefe to coach the Toronto Marlies. These two have worked together for a long time and it’s clear that Dubas trusts Sheldon to get the job done at the NHL level. He is also familiar with many of these current Leaf players, as they came up through the minors playing for him.

This won’t be easy though. This is the Toronto Maple Leafs, the “centre of the hockey universe” as it is so often called. Not only that, but Keefe is coming in to coach this team at a time when expectations are at an all-time high and results have been disappointing. Anything short of making the playoffs will be considered a complete failure.

Whether you agree with the coaching change or not, something obviously needed to be done. One thing is definitely clear now. This is now on the players and management. Babcock is gone and will no longer be used as a scapegoat.

It’s going to be an uphill battle for this team to make the playoffs and Keefe will no doubt face criticism if they fail and will be considered a hero if they succeed.  Welcome to the NHL Sheldon.

Next. Familiarity with roster should help Sheldon Keefe. dark

How much pressure should there be on Keefe to get the Leafs back into a contending position? Can he have an immediate impact? Let us know in the comments below.