Making Star Players Accountable Is the Job of the Toronto Maple Leafs New Coach

Firing Sheldon Keefe was an easy, convenient move by the Maple Leafs. Their next coach needs to be a respected voice that can make the Leafs stars more accountable.
St Louis Blues v Columbus Blue Jackets
St Louis Blues v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

The first domino of the Toronto Maple Leafs offseason dropped with the firing of head coach Sheldon Keefe. It was the easiest, most convenient move for the team to make after their latest postseason failure.

Keefe gave a classy goodbye via video to the organization, the players, and fans. In it, he once again took responsibility for not getting the Leafs over the hump in the playoffs.

Too bad, he couldn't convince some of his former players to do the same.

Leafs players taking ownership for another playoff letdown were few and far between during the last media availability after losing to the Boston Bruins during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Being afraid to demand more of their preeminent players has been a consistent theme during the Brendan Shanahan tenure, especially since Lou Lamoriello was not retained. Holding their premier players more accountable must be the top priority of the Leafs new head coach.

Making Star Players Accountable Must be the Top Priority of the Toronto Maple Leafs New Coach

Think what you will about Lamoriello's old-school ways, but the "one-for-all, we're all equal" attitude, discipline, and structure have a purpose. That was missing through Kyle Dubas' term as general manager and the start of Brad Treliving's reign.

The most recent proof came during the Leafs exit sessions with the media. Morgan Rielly, the team's longest-tenured player, and Ilya Samsonov were the only two players who publicly expressed their need to improve.

Yes, many players such as Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Jake McCabe, and Joseph Woll had undeniable effectiveness against Boston. Even if they didn't feel the need to be better, a courtesy suggestion of improvement (from those who addressed the media) would help soothe the pain of the Leafs fans.

This shouldn't be a surprise, however. Soothing player egos and taking a gentle approach (some might suggest the word coddling) has been the modus operandi since Lamoriello left town.

Other Teams Don't Hesitate to Call Out Their Best Players

After the Bruins lost Game 6 to the Leafs, Boston coach Jim Montgomery told the media he needed more from his best player, David Pastrnak. Keefe, on the other hand, praised Mitch Marner for his defensive work rather than questioning his lack of offensive production or asking more from him.

Was Keefe worried about bruising his player's ego?

Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning has never had an issue asking for more from his best players. He has even benched them. That core of players has won two titles, proof that demanding accountability works.

Oftentimes, when Keefe was frustrated with his best players, he would walk back his comments. His "soft and purposeless" description is one of the more notable examples.

Mike Babcock, despite his no-doubt, questionable motivation tactics, tried to make his players more responsible. The players stopped playing for him and he was let go.

Strong-willed, determined players should get an extra shot of motivation when their coach calls them out, asking for more. They should also be able to handle public, constructive, and warranted criticism from their bench boss.

The Toronto Maple Leafs next coach needs to be a respected voice that players will respond to. It's the type of coach they need for the ultimate success.


If the players don't respond, then the Leafs have bigger issues than the coach.