Head Coach Sheldon Keefe (Main Responsibility: Entire Team)
For everything that happens for the product that the Toronto Maple Leafs put on the ice for each game, a large part of it can be attributed to the hands of the head coach.
For Sheldon Keefe, he has been at the helm of the current Leafs core since the 2019-20 season when he took over from the legendary Mike Babcock. Now into his fifth season with the team, he should have a firm grasp of what the team’s strengths and weaknesses are, as well as having a good idea on how to find the right chemistry among the players to form an effective core.
In doing so, Keefe had been pretty successful in leading the Leafs to five consecutive winning seasons thus far in his tenure.
However, there have been two important issues that constantly remain the Achilles’ heel for both Keefe and the team overall. One was their lack of success in the playoffs despite strong regular season performances, and the other was their penchant for a lack of killer instinct in putting their opponents away which often ended up backfiring in their faces.
This year, the latter point has become quite prominent, especially in recent weeks. During a brutal four-game stretch in mid-January, the Leafs managed to blow four games in which they had the lead, including some with multi-goal leads.
Very often, the Leafs were seen taking their foot off the pedal and lazing back as their opponents took advantage to mount their comebacks. To be successful in the long run, the proper focus and determination must always be present in their game and it is up to the head coach to constantly reiterate to the players its importance throughout the game.
Keefe has already seen this happen too many times in the past few seasons, as the apparent growing issue is beginning to spiral out of control. If Keefe cannot find a way to control the room and significantly alter the current players’ focus and mentality for each competitive game to reach another level, his time with the Leafs may be running out pretty soon.
That’s because if things remain stagnant, growing frustrations of the Leafs’ faithful may begin to mount as a result of unexpected, heartbreaking losses, along with the prolonged failure in the playoffs.