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Have the Leafs already hand-picked Sheldon Keefe's replacement if he starts slow?


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Nicolas Lethbridge
July 24, 2023  (8:36)
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After a very disappointing end to a very hopeful Maple Leafs postseason, one in which Leaf fans and team alike were unsure whether head coach Sheldon Keefe would return to resprise his role, Keefe was indeed brought back by new GM Brad Treliving.

Following the departure of former assistant coach Spencer Carbery, who landed the head coaching gig in Washington, the Leafs opted to hire two new coaches in Mike Van Ryn and Guy Boucher to step into assistant coaching roles behind the bench, Boucher drawing powerplay responsibilities while Van Ryn steps in to run the defense. Imagine that - a defensive coach in Boucher now brought in to oversee the powerplay? This move has backup plan written all over it.
Treliving's decision to bring in Boucher is a bit of a security blanket of sorts for Keefe, at least in my mind. The players love playing for Keefe but his persistent stubbornness towards player deployment in seasons past has enraged Leaf fans; an example of this was his unwavering commitment to his "favourite toys" in Alexander Kerfoot and Justin Holl, both being used higher in the lineup than many fans would have liked. Suffice it to say, those tools are not at his disposal this campaign as Kerfoot has taken up mantle with the Arizona Coyotes, and Holl has signed with the Detroit Red Wings.
Boucher is no stranger to the league. Having coached first the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1997-2000), Rimouski Océanic (2003-2006) & Drummondville Voltigeurs (2006) in the QMJHL in his early days, he began his NHL career with a stint with the Montreal Canadiens but in 2010 was most notoriously hired by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Memorably creating a "1-3-1" defensive structure, Boucher went on to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season.
From 2013 – present, Boucher has experienced one other decent playoff run with Ottawa but has been largely in and out of the league. Now in a new role alongside Keefe and the Leafs, Boucher seems like a bit of a "Plan B" hire. If Keefe doesn't end up sticking around all season, having a guy like Boucher available to step into an interim head coaching role could be vital.
Keeping Keefe was an important decision by Brad Treliving. The players like him and with a strong regular season record to back up the team's successes, he clearly has the tools to be a very good coach in this league. This success, however, runs dry in the postseason. The Leafs did vanquish their demons in the 1st round last season, but were then trounced by the Panthers in 5 games in round 2, with Keefe having absolutely no answers.
What happens if they skid badly out of the gates this season? If players suddenly turn on him and he loses the room? For Treliving, there's really no downside to having an assistant coach behind the bench with head coaching experience in the National Hockey League. It's good to cover your bases and with Boucher now in the mix, if Keefe does end up treading water or being unable to get the most out of his group this season, having a guy who is already familiar with the system and the players step in and take over, at least on an interim basis, is just smart business.
Boucher has no doubt shown with his NHL experience that he can propel a team further than Maple Leafs have made it in decades - 2003-04 to be exact. There's also something to be said about the fact that having Boucher in Toronto could keep Keefe on his toes and challenge him to remain diligent and aware of what may happen if he stumbles in this, the final year of his contract. An excellent bit of forethought by the new man in charge, Brad Treliving, in Toronto.
POLL
24 JUILLET   |   214 ANSWERS
Have the Leafs already hand-picked Sheldon Keefe's replacement if he starts slow?

Will Keefe need to be replaced & an interim GM appointed during the season?

Yes, Boucher will replace him6731.3 %
No, Keefe will be extended5626.2 %
No, Keefe will coach this year and then be let go5827.1 %
Yes, Keefe will be replaced by an outside option3315.4 %
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