4 Reasons for Early Optimism in the Toronto Maple Leafs Off-Season

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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A Much-Needed Coaching Change

I’m a fan of Sheldon Keefe.  I think he’s a good systems coach, a good person, and someone who cares about his players.  That type of coach can have a lot of success with many NHL teams.  Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs are apparently not one of those teams.

Despite a huge amount of regular season success (to the extent of a 212-97-40 coaching record, per hockey-reference.com), the Leafs devolved into a different team in the playoffs, and won just a single playoff series under Keefe’s tutelage.

The criticisms (justifiably so) were that Toronto’s players crumbled in the face of tougher playoff hockey, in-your-face checking, and do-or-die pressure.  Keefe couldn’t find a way to motivate his top players, or find strategic solutions that would enable those top players to score like they do in the regular season.

Thus, the departure of Keefe and the arrival of his replacement, Craig Berube.  Berube was an enforcer-type player in his NHL career, amassing 3149 penalty minutes over 1054 games, and has ties to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, having played 40 games as a Leaf in the 1991-92 season.

As a coach, Berube guided the St. Louis Blues to a surprise Stanley Cup victory in 2018-19.  His coaching style is much different than Keefe’s, relying on motivation more than x’s and o’s.  He is emotional behind the bench, direct with his players, and is known for his great communication.

I wouldn’t accuse any of the Toronto Maple Leafs of “not trying” during the playoffs, but it’s a fact that the playoffs have been an annual exercise in failure for this group.  Something different has to be done to find a way to help these players find an extra gear and find the back of the net like they do when it isn't the playoffs.

I’m looking forward to seeing what a bit of “tough love” can do for this roster, and Craig Berube is just the guy to provide it.