Sheldon Keefe Deserves to Keep His Job Coaching the Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe
Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has been unable to concoct a magic potion that would enable his team to win games consistently this season.  With a pedestrian record of 28-16-8 (per, some fans and pundits have been calling for a change behind the bench.

After winning their first playoff series in 19 years last year, expectations were high for this year’s version of the Toronto Maple Leafs to be better and go farther. 

So far, that hasn’t been the case.  But is it fair to blame the coach?

Anyone who’s watched more than a few Leaf games knows that defense and goaltending have been the biggest weak spots for most of the year.  The goaltending was acceptable when Joseph Woll was holding down the fort, but once he got hurt, disaster struck.

Ilya Samsonov completely forgot how to play, cleared waivers, took some time off to think, and miraculously made it back to start more games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, only because backup-to-the-backup Martin Jones proved he is what we thought he is – a “break glass in case of emergency” third string option.

The blue line has been even more of a nightmare.  Shockingly devoid of depth to begin the season, things have only gotten worse as veterans Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie have declined significantly with age.  Giving significant minutes to players such as Simon Benoit and William Lagesson has had predictably poor results.

Even the forward corps, supposedly the strength of this squad, has looked disjointed far too often.  New additions Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Noah Gregor and Ryan Reaves have accomplished very little, making fans long for departed Leafs such as Alex Kerfoot and Michael Bunting.

Who to Blame for the Toronto Maple Leafs Struggles?

So, let’s blame the coach, right?  How about we place much of the blame where it truly belongs – with the general manager.  Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving has done little right since replacing former GM Kyle Dubas. 

It’s tough to fault Treliving for the goalie situation, as the Woll/Samsonov issues were beyond his control, and to be fair, there wasn’t much available on the goaltending market last summer.  But the failure to shore up the defense falls squarely on his shoulders, as does the blame for signing 4 forwards who clearly don’t fit with this lineup.

Still, some want Sheldon Keefe to pay the price for the Leafs shortcomings.  “Keefe shuffles his lines too much, so his players can’t build any rapport”, say some.  Please……when something doesn’t work, you try something else. 

Others claim “Keefe doesn’t match lines well enough”.  Yet not so long ago the complaint was that Matthews, Marner and Nylander didn’t get enough ice time.  So, which is it?  Do we want to keep pulling the top players off so we can match lines better, or put our biggest guns out there and let the other coach worry about it?

Then we hear the cries of "what about motivating the players?" Well, the biggest motivational tool any coach has for keeping his players accountable is ice time. But this tool only works if the coach can take someone's ice away and give it to someone else who will use it productively. If the roster is poorly constructed, the coach is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.


In the end, Sheldon Keefe will sooner or later take the fall if the Toronto Maple Leafs fail to win the Stanley Cup.  It’s not his fault, but that’s what NHL teams do.