Sheldon Keefe fired as Toronto Maple Leafs coach

Sheldon Keefe fired as Toronto Maple Leafs coach

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Sheldon Keefe, the team announced Thursday.

“The organization will immediately begin the search for a new head coach,” the team said in a statement.

In a video released on X, formerly Twitter, Keefe said he will be forever grateful for the opportunity to coach the Leafs.

“It’s a dream come true for a boy from Brampton,” he said.

Keefe’s Maple Leafs performed well in the regular season, with a 212-97-40 record in 349 games.

The team recorded three consecutive 100-point seasons with Keefe behind the bench, including a team-record 115-point season in 2021-22.

The Leafs routinely came up short in the playoffs with Keefe at the helm however, sporting a single playoff round win against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and a 16-21 postseason record overall. After an up and down season in 2023-24, Toronto lost to the Boston Bruins in a series-deciding seventh game last weekend. 

Despite finally getting the organization over a painful playoff hump last spring when the Leafs advanced to the second round for the first time in nearly two decades, Keefe was unable to keep that momentum going.

Toronto bowed out in a tepid five games to the Florida Panthers in the second round in 2023, before Kyle Dubas was fired as general manager less than two weeks later.

That dismissal followed a roller-coaster stretch that led to questions about Keefe’s future, but new GM Brad Treliving elected to keep the Dubas loyalist after taking the reins, and then inked the coach from Brampton, Ont., to a contract extension through 2025-26.

Team searching for ‘new voice,’ GM says

“Today’s decision was difficult,” Treliving said in a statement. “Sheldon is an excellent coach and a great man; however, we determined a new voice is needed to help the team push through to reach our ultimate goal.

“We thank Sheldon for his hard work and dedication to the organization over the last nine years, and wish him and his family all the very best.”

It’s unclear what will happen to the team’s assistant coaches. The Leafs said in Thursday’s statement that “decisions regarding the remainder of the coaching staff will follow.”

Special teams have been a focal point of the team’s playoff failures in recent years, and this latest seven-game series against the Bruins was no exception. The Leafs scored a single power play goal in 21 tries against the Bruins, which could call assistant coach Guy Boucher’s job into question, as he ran the power play.

WATCH | Hockey analyist talks Keefe ousting:

‘This was necessary,’ Hockey YouTuber says of Sheldon Keefe firing

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Sheldon Keefe, the team announced Thursday. CBC News Network’s Natasha Fatah spoke with Steve “Dangle” Glynn, a hockey podcaster and YouTuber, about decision.

Keefe says Leaf fans deserve Stanley Cup

In his video message Thursday, Keefe thanked his players for their efforts throughout his tenure, as well as the team’s management and support staff. 

He called his ousting part of the reality of working in the NHL.

“I didn’t get it done in the playoffs — I didn’t help push our team over the line and deliver. I accept responsibility for that. No excuses. That’s the job [and] I didn’t get it done,” Keefe said. 

“Leafs nation, you deserve a Stanley Cup. Your passion at home and on the road is unmatched.”

The 43-year-old Keefe, who replaced former coach Mike Babcock in November 2019, watched his team score two goals or fewer in 13 of his final 14 playoff games in charge — not nearly good enough from the so-called “core four” of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, who account for roughly half of the club’s salary cap.

Three hockey players look dejected near the exit of a rink.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bertuzzi (59) leaves the ice between John Tavares (91) and Morgan Rielly (44) after the team lost to the Boston Bruins in overtime, ending the Leafs’ playoff run. (Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press)

The Leafs also routinely had the second best goaltender in most of the team’s playoff appearances, with the exception being last season’s win against the Lightning.

Keefe also led the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup title in 2018.

Treliving, who is set to enter his second season running the team, is scheduled to address the media Friday morning alongside new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Keith Pelley, who now runs the team’s parent company, and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.

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