Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Sheldon Keefe Was Always Next in Line

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 8: Toronto Maple Leafs' Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas announced today that Sheldon Keefe has been named head coach of the Toronto Marlies. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 8: Toronto Maple Leafs' Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas announced today that Sheldon Keefe has been named head coach of the Toronto Marlies. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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After the firing of Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs management wasted no time deciding who his replacement would be.

I believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs had this decision made long before they were ready to fire Babcock.

Along with all the accolades Sheldon Keefe has, including an OHL rookie of the year award and a Calder Cup, there’s one trait that makes him very special.

Ever since he’s worked with Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Kyle Dubas, there’s always been a special bond. Dubas said in the press conference introducing Keefe that they may not always agree, but they see the big picture together.

From coaching in Sault Ste. Marie to coaching with the Toronto Marlies, they’ve been side by side, always. It’s not just the fact that Keefe buys into the analytical side of it all, it’s more than that.

For the first time in a very long time, I witnessed a head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs smile after a player scored a goal. I don’t think Mike Babcock ever did, nor did Randy Carlyle.

What makes Keefe so special?

He’s a players coach.

It was no doubt that the Toronto Maple Leafs needed a coaching change. The room stunk and players weren’t enjoying it any more. Insert Keefe into the situation; the team plays better.

Players on the team needed someone who believes in them, and I’m not saying Babcock didn’t, but I think he was just too serious for all the younger guys in the room.

If you watch the whole video, you can feel how much the players believe in each other.

Keefe has always been a players coach. He jokes around when the time is right, but also is serious when needed to be. He is 100% what the team needed in a head coach.

It’s not to say Babcock wasn’t like this too. I’m sure there were times where he’d joke around with certain players, then when he had to be serious, he was.

Apart from all of that there’s now belief and it started from management, and bled its way down.

I think that winning the Calder Cup helped do the trick. It showed Leafs management that he could bring a championship to a team, which now has players playing on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Players know him, and they know how he is as a coach. They respect it, they feed off of all of the positive energy he has.

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Of course, Babcock may not have been the coach that lead this team to the Stanley Cup, but when needed you make a change and that’s what the Toronto Maple Leafs did.

Now, we wait. Will Keefe change this team and make the players believe? I think so, and after one game — I now believe too.