With the Toronto Maple Leafs parting ways with assistant coaches DJ Smith (now Senators head coach) and Jim Hillier (politely told to go get a new job elsewhere), people have been speculating on what Sheldon Keefe’s role with the organization will be in the future.
Now, we know.
“It’s been a privilege and honour to be part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and head coach of the Toronto Marlies for the past four seasons,” said Keefe. “In my conversations with the Leafs over the past several months, I felt that staying on with this club was the best decision for me, my family and my development. I’m incredibly proud of our recent achievements as a club and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to develop young Maple Leafs.”
Well, we don’t know everything and can’t predict the future, but this is a good sign Keefe is willing to stay in the organisation, just not as an NHL assistant. This contract is for him to remain as a head coach for the next two seasons - and probably includes a bump in pay after winning the Calder Cup and taking this year’s batch of Marlies to the Eastern Conference Final while becoming the winning-est coach in Marlies history, with a 189-87-20-1 record behind the bench.
It’s not a surprise that Keefe is staying as head coach with the Marlies rather than moving up to the Leafs as an assistant. Keefe has never been an assistant coach in his bench career - aside from a couple stints with national junior teams. He bought the JrA Pembroke Lumber Kings and was head coach there, moved up to the OHL Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds when Kyle Dubas invited him to be head coach there, and then moved to the Marlies with Dubas as well.
With the Keefe question out of the way, the Maple Leafs are now clear to find a second assistant coach to work with Mike Babcock this season. What they haven’t quieted are the questions and comments about Keefe taking over for Babcock sooner rather than later - but that will never end as long as Keefe is in the organization and Dubas is running things.