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MX News Update 2024

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BREAKING: Maple Leafs fire Sheldon Keefe after another playoff failure

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Three days after Sheldon Keefe fell on his sword, Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving put a final twist on things.

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In news that shouldn’t have come as a surprise to even the most casual Leafs fans, Treliving fired Keefe on Thursday morning.

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“Today’s decision was difficult,” Treliving said in a team statement. “Sheldon is an excellent coach and a great man; However, we have come to the conclusion that a new voice is needed to help the team achieve our ultimate goal.

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

The firing ended a 4 1/2-year run by Keefe that was high on regular-season success and low on playoff wins.

It’s a formula that doesn’t add up in professional sports, and Keefe paid the price. When he met with the media on Monday, Keefe seemed to have an idea this was coming, even though he would have welcomed another chance to do it right.

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“We’re in the results business and we haven’t gotten results,” Keefe said. “We have not met expectations. As head coach I take responsibility for this.

“My job as head coach is to find solutions and create a path for the group to get through and succeed at the most important time of the year. We didn’t do that.”

Treliving can now hire his own man, as the saying goes in professional sports, and there is no shortage of candidates.

Much speculation has linked the Leafs and Craig Berube, who coached the St. Louis Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019. Berube, who also coached the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013 to 2015, was fired by the Blues in December.

One of Berube’s many stops in a National Hockey League playing career that lasted more than 1,000 games came during one season with the Leafs in 1991-92.

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If not Berube, others eligible could also include Todd McLellan, Gerard Gallant, Jay Woodcroft, Dean Evason and Joel Quenneville, although he would need NHL clearance.

Regardless of who becomes the new coach, crucial to his role will be a solid working relationship with Auston Matthews. Matthews, whose four-year extension begins next season, is expected to be the Leafs’ next captain. John Tavares’ future may be yet to be determined, but with one year left on his contract, the time will be right for a change in captaincy, whether that be before the 2024/25 season or heading into 2025/26.

Keefe grew as a coach after taking over for the fired Mike Babcock in November 2019, turning the Leafs into a club that took its defensive responsibilities more seriously.

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There was a mistake in that regard last season, but how many times have we heard Treliving say that the defense force was a work in progress?
By leading the Leafs to 102 points in 2023-24, Keefe got a lot out of the club, given the injuries (only William Nylander played in all 82 games) and goal inconsistencies that were problems.

Under Keefe’s tutelage in recent years, the Leafs’ trio of young stars – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander – have become better players, and not just through maturity.

However, when hockey became crucial and wins were the only way to go, the Leafs couldn’t get it done.

Keefe would certainly highlight last year’s first-round win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on his coaching resume. It was the overall lack of post-season success and inability to make a difference in close series that ended Keefe’s time with the Leafs.

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When David Pastrnak scored in overtime of Game 7 on Saturday, sending the Leafs home early again, the Keefe speculation kicked into high gear.

While we initially thought there might be some wiggle room for Keefe when neither Matthews nor Nylander could play in all seven games against the Bruins, Treliving saw it differently.

Even with a two-year extension signed last August, and with Kyle Dubas no longer a safety net after being fired last May, Keefe felt like he had at least one round in the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs had to win to keep his job. .

Things weren’t supposed to end this way for Keefe in the organization, not after he guided the Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup championship in 2018, some 17 months before he was promoted to coach of the Leafs by Dubas.

At age 43, Keefe’s best coaching days in the NHL are likely ahead of him. He won’t be out of work for long.

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X: @koshtorontosun

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