In the aftermath of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff elimination, what happens now to head coach Sheldon Keefe? It would seem that, if he’s dumped as expected, the New York Rangers (who are contemplating their coaching options, have him on their radar.
The Rangers are eager to make their mark during the postseason. They are also rumored to be closely watching Keefe’s situation in Toronto. If the Maple Leafs’ organization dumps him, they hope to hire him as their new head coach.
As fans know too well, the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup drought has now extended to a whopping 56 years. Already, Kyle Dubas is now the former general manager. And, Keefe’s the fate is hanging in the balance. Interesting that Dubas is sought after by a number of teams, most seriously the rumors have it the Pittsburgh Penguins. Keefe also seems desired, this time by the Rangers.
Could Keefe potentially move closer to Broadway?
Related: Penguins Are Willing to Wait for Ex-Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas
A Season of Pressure and Playoff Triumphs
The Maple Leafs entered the 2022-23 season under immense pressure. They had failed to win a playoff series since 2004. However, they had initial success when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. That win ignited Blue and White Nation’s hopes for a deep playoff run.
Unfortunately, the Florida Panthers – led by record-setting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky – were a formidable opponent. The Panthers shocked the NHL’s best regular-season team (the Boston Bruins) and also derailed Toronto’s hopes for an easier path to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Panthers currently have the Carolina Hurricanes in a three games to zero hole in the Eastern Conference finals.
Keefe’s Coaching Prowess and Postseason Challenges
Keefe, who’s now 42 years old, has spent the last four seasons as the Maple Leafs’ coach. He put together the best overall record of any coach in Maple Leafs’ history – 166-71-30. While a lot of credit goes to the talent and skills of the players he leads, it isn’t all smoke and mirrors.
In my perspective, he learned on the job but has sometimes been outcoached by more experienced coaches. That said, his coaching skills and in his ability to guide the team through the regular season grew during his time as coach.
Still, where he’s suffered is that his postseason record of 13-17 leaves room for improvement. Keefe’s significant challenge seems to be in the goaltending department. While he’s had a number of good goalies during his time in Toronto, he’s had no real standout. That’s hurt his chances.
With the Rangers, he would have one of the best and most talented in Igor Shesterkin. That in itself could bolster Keefe’s defensive strategies and enhance the team’s success.
Related: The Real Reason Kyle Dubas Left the Maple Leafs
Keefe Has Been Coaching Superstars
During Keefe’s time in Toronto, he created space for solid production from star players. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander have had great seasons with him as coach. Even John Tavares, who’s long in the tooth as an NHL player has shown the ability to continue his strong production.
Keefe seems to have the ability to create systems that optimize the skills of elite talents. After the Panthers beat the Maple Leafs, Florida’s head coach Paul Maurice praised Keefe and referred to him as a “phenomenal coach.” Maurice also noted that Keefe would probably be coaching in the NHL for the next two decades.
The Bottom Line
Interestingly, the situation with Dubas might have implications for what happens with Keefe. Both men’s futures remain uncertain. Early speculation links Dubas to the Pittsburgh Penguins GM. If Dubas receives a solid offer from the Penguins or decides to explore other opportunities, it might complicate the Rangers’ pursuit of Keefe. They have been partners for many seasons.
The Rangers seem to be patiently waiting how the Maple Leafs resolve Keefe’s situation. The Rangers seem interested in acquiring his services. Keefe’s coaching success, his track record with star players, and the potential improvement in goaltending could make him an strong fit for where the Rangers want to go.
However, until the dust settles in Toronto and Keefe’s future becomes clear, the Rangers can only speculate on the prospect of adding him to their coaching ranks.
Related: Maple Leafs Fans Sound Off on the Shanahan and Dubas’ Drama