Sheldon Keefe talks about his time as Maple Leafs head coach
In 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock from the head coach position. It has been a year since Sheldon Keefe took over as the main tactician. Keefe has reflected on his stint with the Leafs.
The club was in a six-game losing streak when Keefe took over in the middle of a Western Conference road swing. He was the head coach of the Toronto Marlies to an AHL Calder Cup title victory in 2018.
Keefe recalls that day because it was a thrilling experience for him to be coaching one of the best NHL teams historically. He said, ‘A whole lot of excitement. It was just a whirlwind, really. That whole experience of getting the call and getting everything done and then making the travel arrangements and then before you know it you're at the airport and on a plane. And then you land in Arizona, of all places, which has a very special place in my heart with my wife being from there. There was just a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time’.
With Keefe on the bench, the Leafs had a 27-15-5 record before the regular season was stopped by COVID-19. There were some bad losses scattered there but their performances have put the Leafs under the spotlight once again.
He has learned a lot during his reign as the head coach. Keefe had to adjust to the NHL system and he has done well. There are a lot of factors that play into that because the level of competition is far greater than the AHL which he recognizes.
When it comes to his team right now, he has a lot of changes that he wants to do. Keefe said, ‘We need to recognize that we have to do everything better. We have more to give in every area of the game. We need to create a standard of consistency, most importantly, and in order to do that we've got to start at Day 1 of training camp. You're going to have bad days, but the standards of effort and competitiveness have to be there consistently’.
Words: Cholo Martin