Sheldon Keefe surprisingly complimentary of Brad Treliving after being fired

Dean Chaudhry
May 29, 2024  (5:30 PM)

Sheldon Keefe posing for a photo in New Jersey
Photo credit: New Jersey Devils

Former Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe opened up on Tuesday about how things unfolded before and after he was fired by the club, including the role Brad Treliving played in the process.

A topic of discussion that has been on everyone's mind when talking about Keefe's new job in New Jersey is whether or not he thought about sitting back, relaxing, and letting his new 2-year contract run out before making a decision on his future. However, Keefe decided to not only set his sights on a new job in short order, it also helped the Leafs because it axed their 2-year pact completely off the books.
Keefe made a brief appearance on TSN 1050 OverDrive with Brian Hayes, Jeff O'Neill, and Jamie McLennan on Tuesday, just hours after his introductory press conference in New Jersey, discussing what went into the process of not only being let go by the Maple Leafs but how the Devils become a top suitor - including the active role that Brad Treliving played during the whole process:
"I was unsure about how to handle it and I got pretty quickly, probably within the first few hours of being let go by Tre, that he was calling me on my phone and I had to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to answer it but I did and it was him to let me know that Tom Fitzgerald had already reached out and was looking to contact me.

So that was great, and Tre through the whole thing has been terrific, but you go through the different emotions of it and credit to Tom because I think he made it clear that I was high on his list and he was willing to be patient - it's one thing to do that but it's another to sort of sit back and give me ample time to process things."
Keefe had definitely thought about sitting back and letting things fall into place but he also thought about what was best for him and his family. He mentioned how Treliving called him a few hours after being fired to give him a heads up that the Devils were interested and had contacted the Maple Leafs about his availability. With the Devils being so high on Keefe, they were willing to be patient and allow him to process things before he ultimately made up his mind.
When asked about what he'll miss most about coaching in Toronto, Keefe came back with:
"What I'll miss undoubtedly is just tremendous people, that's the biggest thing.
It's not to discount of how much of an honour and a privilege it was to coach the Maple Leafs and the great challenge that we had there but there's just tremendous people there and after being let go - which was a first for me - the messages that you receive from current players and from past players that have been with you and have moved on to different organizations or staff members that are there, you just start to get messages from people and in some cases, from people that maybe had some things they had wanted to say to you but haven't for whatever reason and they send you a really nice message, it gives you a true sense that you've been able to have a positive influence on them..."

The Maple Leafs moved on from the 43-year-old Brampton native after 5 seasons behind the bench between 2019-20 and 2023-24. He amassed a 212-97-40 regular season record but only advanced past the first round once. He will now be tasked to help the Devils make it back to the post-season after having missed out this year and being out of the loop in 5 of the last 6 seasons.