The Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have fired head coach Mike Babcock and Sheldon Keefe was named as the new head coach.
Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan announced today that Mike Babcock has been relieved of his coaching duties and Sheldon Keefe has been named the Club’s new head coach. #LeafsForever
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) November 20, 2019
Mike Babcock Fired
Entering his fifth season as Maple Leafs head coach, the seat was getting warm for Mike Babcock. Now with the Maple Leafs in the midst of a six-game losing, something had to give. The Maple Leafs decided to make an organizational decision to make a coaching change. Babcock signed an eight-year deal worth, $50 million back in May of 2015. His salary of $6.25 million made him the highest-paid head coach in the NHL.
During his tenure with the Maple Leafs, things did not come easy. In his first season with the club, they missed the playoffs. However, finishing in last-place allowed Toronto to draft Auston Matthews first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Maple Leafs would make the playoffs the following three seasons losing in the first round each time. Toronto lost to the Washington Capitals in 2016 and failed to get past their arch-rivals, the Boston Bruins falling in Game 7 in 2018 and 2019.
While the Maple Leafs defied expectations against the Capitals, Babcock was outcoached by Bruce Cassidy in the next two seasons. The Maple Leafs record under Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 regular-season games and an 8-12 record in three postseason appearances. That does not cut in a market like Toronto. Leaving many to scratch their heads wondering what he had to do to win.
Even though the team was having success, there were rumblings of him clashing with his players. Most notably with Matthews over playing time. There had been much speculation in the off-season that if Babcock did not make the playoffs or this team did not get off to a good start he could be relieved of his duties.
Sheldon Keefe Hired
Babcock was relieved of his duties. The Maple Leafs named Sheldon Keefe the 31st head coach in franchise history. Keefe has been the coach of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League for the better part of five seasons. In his time with the Marlies, Keefe has a record of 199-89-22-9 (.672), making the playoffs every year. Keefe guided the Marlies to win the 2018 Calder Cup championship.
What Lies Ahead
In the coming days and months, there will be much to talk about. There will be much speculation about whether or not Babcock lost the room. Did his players want to play for him? Was Babock the right fit for general manager Kyle Dubas? One thing is for sure, if Babcock was not going to change his ways… the Maple Leafs would.
Keefe has a difficult task ahead of getting this team to play the right way. Things will not be easy for him, but the talent is there to be successful. The Maple Leafs are hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle like the St. Louis Blues did last season.
With Babcock gone, the onis is on the players to right the ship. If they cannot figure it out, look for more moves to happen.