Just before the start of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sheldon Keefe won’t have to think about a contract extension but was that the right move?
Every move the Toronto Maple Leafs have made over the last six years has been to support Brendan Shanahan’s vision. At the same time, the final goal hasn’t been achieved yet and it’s up to the front office to remove any unnecessary distractions.
This is why it wasn’t surprising to see Sheldon Keefe get a two-year contract extension, as NHL insider Pierre LeBrun reported. The real question is whether it was the right move and whether Keefe earned to have his contract extended?
As LeBrun said on TSN’s Insider Trading, this is viewed as a chance for Keefe to have some assurance going forward but still having to prove himself.
"“He was entering the final year of his contract and I think that’s exactly why the Leafs organization felt it was important to remove that distraction in the crazy Toronto market that he was not a lame duck coach. And as soon as they have a losing streak, this was not a narrative,” LeBrun explained. “So they’ve signed him to a two-year extension – and listen, it’s not a five-year extension. I’m sure a lot of people are saying why sign this guy to an extension now after they’ve lost out in the opening round of the playoffs two years straight. On the flip side, this is his first full 82-game season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They believe in him, but it’s a prove-me contract still at two years, not a five-year extension.”"
As LeBrun mentions, the Leafs aren’t going out of their way to provide a long-term commitment to Keefe because they need him to prove that he can help get them over the hump.
Spotlight definitely on Sheldon Keefe despite getting new contract
At some point, the Leafs need to decide when the disappointment is going to end. The core took a major brunt of the criticism for how the season ended and now many are looking at what the future of Kyle Dubas and Keefe look like if the team fails to find success.
We saw in the Leafs’ All or Nothing Amazon series how emotional all the players were after getting eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens. They understand that there was a big opportunity missed and the road doesn’t get any easier.
So for Keefe, the way Toronto starts the season is crucial because if they struggle like the team did under Mike Babcock before he got fired, similar questions will be asked. We already know how much support Keefe has from Kyle Dubas so maybe he gets more rope in that regard but the general manager is also under similar pressure.
Every lineup decision Keefe makes starting with the opening night roster will be scrutinized and with the players they lost in the off-season, the job only gets tougher for the head coach. This is where he can earn his paycheque because while he has maintained the Leafs’ position as a playoff team, he hasn’t gotten them to play as a contender in the post-season.
Do you think Keefe deserved to get some job security from the Leafs? Can he take them to the next level? Let us know in the comments below.