What the Toronto Maple Leafs Players Have Said About Their Coaches

Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs – Sheldon Keefe (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs players have been speaking to the media. This is a collection of their quotes about their former and new coaches.

Unless you’ve been off the grid, unable to check your devices in fear of being located, then you know that things have flipped upside down with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs fired Mike Babcock in favor of promoting the Toronto Marlies head coach, Sheldon Keefe.

If you were hiding, welcome back. Now’s the perfect time to see what the front office and some of the players have said about the coaching move. We will explore a few of their recent quotes.

At the Leafs press conference, (the following quotes are from that) the president and alternate governor for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brendan Shanahan and the team’s general manager, Kyle Dubas, sat for questions from the press. They addressed the recent coaching change.

Kyle Dubas

On Mike Babcock’s Firing

"I thought we showed signs even during this stretch of playing really really well even in long timeframes of games we ended up losing. I just felt that, in constant discussions with Shanny about it, that our ups and downs, our inconsistency a little bit, just kind of reading off the players and watching them and how they were reacting to different things that it was just time to potentially go down this path. Just continue to watch and let this story unfold and then make the move. I can’t point to any one specific [trails off]. . . and I think everyone wants that. They want one loss or one moment in the game that sort of pushed you over the edge. In my brief experience here and before there was never really one thing and I don’t think that either one of us are that style of people where we get frantic about one thing that happened and decide that it’s time. I think it was just an accumulation of watching the group continue to play and evolve on and off the ice that led us to that point."

On Sheldon Keefe

"Sheldon and I have in our past have had some of the biggest disagreements and arguments I’ve ever had with anyone I was working with, but in the end, I believe that we we largely and philosophically and in terms of style of play we have always been aligned and on the same page. And I know we’ve gone through, I know it’s lower level, but we’ve gone through a change like this in-season in Sault Ste. Marie so that made it a little bit easier. It’s not optimal by any stretch, but we’ve had to do this before. This is obviously going to be a much biggest test and that really falls on me and nobody else."

Brendan Shanahan

On Mike Babcock

"I don’t know if I’d characterize it that a coach had lost the room, I just think that certainly from a player’s perspective, you can see the frustration in their eyes. I really thought, even in our last game, that our players were working really hard, but there was sort of a belief missing in them. When things are going poorly like that a lot of things are running through your mind during the hockey game and you could almost see it in their faces that don’t necessarily even involve the hockey game."

On Sheldon Keefe

"I don’t think it’s any one person to point the blame at, coach or player. I think that’s the challenge for Sheldon, our entire coaching staff and our players to have better communication and get this sorted out."

What We Learned

Both Dubas and Shanahan we careful not to destroy Babcock’s reputation as they shoved him out the door. They did their best to protect the coach while also explaining why he needed to go.

They were clear in their explanation that there was a series of events and a stretch of games where these discussions were happening. There was no single “aha” moment that led either executive to determine that what’s best for the organization is a change of leadership.

Dubas explained that he and Babcock were not always “Sympatico” in their philosophies on hockey and how to win games.

He then immediately downplayed that notion by suggesting that the same can be said about him and Keefe. Reading between the lines, one can assume that there wasn’t cohesion between the coach and the general manager. This could have been palatable if only the Leafs were winning, but sadly, they weren’t.

Shanahan was adamant that Babs was not the sole person to blame for the team’s underperformance. He holds the players responsible as well for their efforts and play. Shanny also hinted at poor communication playing a role in the divide between coaches and players. There’s no doubt that this has already been addressed with Keefe by the Toronto Maple Leafs.