Toronto Maple Leafs Sheldon Keefe Should Win Coach of the Year

Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Ever since Sheldon Keefe took over as head coach, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the best teams in the NHL.

Prior to joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe was one of the most allured coaches who wasn’t in the NHL, yet. He had won the CHL coach of the year when he worked with the Soo Greyhounds, then he went onto to win the Calder Cup as the head coach of the Toronto Marlies.

Keefe probably could have found another NHL job before the Leafs position opened up, but he waited until the Leafs came calling and ultimately replaced Mike Babcock when the team was slumping at the start of the 2019-20 season.

When Keefe joined the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team was 9-10-4 and heading in the wrong direction. The roster was talented, but for whatever reason, they weren’t getting the most out of them and they seemed bound to miss the playoffs.

Keefe changed the culture immediately and guided this team to a 27-15-5 record before the world shutdown due to the pandemic. Toronto technically missed the playoffs and ended up losing in the “play-in round” but there was a lot of hope from that year.

The team went from the basement to one of the better teams in the NHL over Keefe’s guidance and his leadership translated into wins.

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The NHL’s coach of the year award is weird. The best coach doesn’t win every year, but instead, it’s typically a coach who takes an unknown team from the Draft Lottery to the playoffs. Since the Leafs are the most recognizable franchise in the NHL, and are supposed to make the playoffs, their head coach isn’t getting rewarded for his coaching ability.

Since Keefe took over full-time, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a 79-35-13 record, which translates into a .673 Points Percentage. That would be the fourth highest points percentage in the 104-year team history, so clearly Keefe is doing something right.

As of right now, Keefe has middle-of-the-pack odds to win the coach of the year award. Depending where you look, Keefe is a +2500 underdog to win this award, which means if you put $100 on him and he won, you’d win $2,500.

That’s insane value to me.

When Mike Babcock coached a somewhat similar roster, the team was winning, but they were only doing it by over-powering teams. They were winning 5-4 games, that didn’t translate to playoff hockey, while this season, Keefe has the team winning those 2-1 and 3-2 games that they used to lose.

The Leafs are still scoring a lot, but they’re not allowing as many goals because of their structure. They’re currently third in the NHL in goals allowed (GA) and ninth in goals for (GF). Last season, they were seventh in GA and sixth in GF, which is incredibly impressive, compared to where they were with Babcock.

During Babcock’s tenure, they were 27th in GA, 18th in GA and 11th in GA, compared to being third, fourth and second in GF in those respective seasons.

When you have the fire-power that Toronto has with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, you’re always going to be able to score, but more importantly, you need to defend, when those guys aren’t producing.

Toronto has shown that they can win low-scoring tight games this year, but they’ve also shown that they can dominate teams like that they did to Colorado 8-3 the other night.

In my opinion, Keefe is one of the best coaches in the NHL and has proved that every single night since he’s been the Leafs head coach, and for whatever reason, the odds don’t reflect that.

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If you’re a gambler, I’d recommend throwing a couple bucks on Keefe at +2500 because if the Leafs continue their dominance and end up as the President Trophy winner, or right there, Keefe should get some more recognition for the incredible job he’s doing.