Leafs GM offers his thoughts on Sheldon Keefe's extension and why he's the right coach for the team

Published August 31, 2023 at 9:38

The Toronto Maple Leafs came into the summer of 2023 with a laundry list of items that needed addressing after the dismissal of former GM Kyle Dubas. At the beginning of Brad Treliving's tenure as GM, nobody envied the tremendous amount of work ahead, but as we approach the 2023-24 season, it's tough to not look back at Treliving's body of work over the summer and be optimistic.

One of the last items on his checklist was Sheldon Keefe's extension, which was announced on Wednesday - a two-year deal that will keep Keefe in the fold through the 2025-26 season. The move not only allows the Leafs to avoid any potential distractions that would come with having a head coach in a lame duck position, but it also ensures that Keefe is putting his best foot forward, knowing that his immediate future is more certain.

Treliving addressed the media on Wednesday following the announcement of Keefe's extension and one of the first things he had said was that he believes that Sheldon Keefe is a coach worth keeping around.

"I think Sheldon is a top coach. I think he's a really, really good coach. When you've got good people, you want to keep them."

There are different types of coaches throughout the NHL. Some are more hard-nosed, no nonsense types, who demand a relentless work ethic and others are more cerebral and understand that a lot of the game is mental and that you need to employ different methods to maximize the potential of different players. Keefe is a blend of these two philosophies. He has been referred to in the past as "a player's coach". One of Treliving's comments in particular seem to confirm that.

"What I've gathered from the players is they trust (Keefe). They trust that he's doing the right thing by them. There was a strong belief from the players and support of the players. I think he's got a real good relationship with our players... It's not about being liked as a coach, it's about being respected."

Keefe is the top coach in Toronto Maple Leafs history in terms of points percentage with a cumulative .678 points percentage from 2020-2023. He's 6th all-time in wins with 166 in just 3.5 seasons and 6th in overall points with 362. You don't put up these types of numbers if you're a bad coach, plain and simple.

While the playoff disappointments are undeniable, these issues also existed before Keefe arrived. With so much of the game being mental, it's very much on the players to get out of their own heads and to execute the game plan. Judging from the fact that Auston Matthews signed a 4-year extension last week, the players know and understand this.

Keefe is a very good regular season coach and if he and the rest of the Leafs' coaching staff can put together a solid enough game plan this year, they have a very good shot at winning the Atlantic Division and setting themselves up for a softer round 1 matchup in the 2023-24 playoffs. They have to break through eventually and go on a long run. This core is too good not to. Sheldon Keefe also appears to be too good not to, in his own right. Treliving appears to believe that Keefe is more than capable, given yesterday's announcement.

August 31   |   104 answers
Leafs GM offers his thoughts on Sheldon Keefe's extension and why he's the right coach for the team

Do you think the Leafs made a wise decision in extending Sheldon Keefe?

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