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5 potential replacements for Sheldon Keefe that the Leafs could consider

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Photo credit:© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
1 month ago
The Sheldon Keefe era ended on Thursday in the wake of yet another first-round exit for the Leafs.
There is no doubt that he did a lot of good during his time in Toronto, which resulted in the fifth-most wins and the highest winning percentage in franchise history. Ultimately, the reason he was let go has more to do with his putrid showing in the playoffs going 1-5 throughout his tenure which is not going to cut it in a market that has aspirations of winning it all.
Now that the Leafs have decided to make a change behind the bench, the next logical step is to find Keefe’s replacement. There is no shortage of candidates for Brad Treliving to consider which is why it is so important that he gets the decision right on who he chooses as the successor to man the bench during a critical juncture of the Core Four era.
So while we await the announcement on who will be taking over as the bench boss, here are five names in no particular order that the Leafs could be considering for the position.

Craig Berube

The smoke surrounding Berube and the Leafs has picked up steam over the past few days and is only going to grow in intensity now that the shoe has dropped. It started when Paul Bissonnette jokingly threatened to reveal on TNT that Berube would be the next head coach of the Leafs, only for the former Blues coach to have a deadpan reaction to it. Darren Dreger also added fuel to the fire when he reported yesterday that Berube would be a serious candidate for Toronto if they went forward with the change. Heck, even he admitted that it would be an honour to coach this team when he stopped by Leafs Morning Take a few months ago.
It’s far from a guarantee that he will for sure be the successor because he has also garnered significant interest from the Devils, but then again there are also rumours suggesting he has been waiting on what the Leafs do which suggests this team is his top choice for where he would like to work next. Either way, Berube is the early favourite for who the next Leafs coach will be and the noise is only going to grow louder in the days ahead.

Todd McLellan

In addition to listing Berube as a top choice, Dreger also reported that one of the things the Leafs would be prioritizing for Keefe’s replacement would be someone with experience. He listed two other names that would be in consideration, which were Gerard Gallant (more on him later) and Todd McLellan.
It is understandable why he is among the coaches being potentially looked at as he has found a lot of success in his career to this point, currently sitting two wins shy of becoming the 24th coach ever to reach 600 wins. However, McLellan has also been mediocre in the playoffs as the closest he got to winning the Cup was two conference finals appearances in 2010 and 2011 while with the Sharks.  He has longevity but his playoff pedigree is not much better than Keefe’s which the Leafs need to be careful with.

Gerard Gallant

If the Leafs are looking to get a spark next campaign then Gallant makes a lot of sense. He has a proven track record of getting a lot out of his team in his first season at the helm as evidenced by guiding the Golden Knights to the Cup Finals in 2018 and the Rangers to the Conference Finals in 2022.
The issue with Gallant is that he also has a short shelf life and can overstay his welcome quickly as he has yet to remain with a team for more than three seasons which means the Leafs will likely have to go right back to the drawing board by no later than 2027. His accolades since becoming a head coach are certainly impressive (including a Jack Adams Award in 2018 and being named a finalist in 2022), but Gallant only has one season to get it done or else he will be shown the door quickly.

Bruce Boudreau

It seems like every time the Leafs are in search of a new coach Boudreau’s name quickly comes up. This is certainly for good reason because he has had plenty of success in the NHL and has expressed numerous times over the years his desire to coach his boyhood team partly because he wants to lift a curse his father placed on them. Boudreau is always willing to provide his takes on how he would fix the problems ailing the Leafs and has never hidden his love for the Blue and White even when he was part of an opposing team.
There is one small problem: he is just as cursed in the playoffs as the Leafs are, especially in Game 7s where he has gone 1-7 in his career. Boudreau has also gone no further than the Conference Finals which he did in 2015 while with the Ducks, but has never come close to that since with three straight first-round exits and two playoff misses since then. It certainly would be a little on the nose for the Leafs to choose the same coach that was with Alex Ovechkin during his formative years trying to overcome his second-round demons, but some risks would come from this route. Perhaps being an assistant coach to help fix the power play would be an ideal fit for him.

Guy Boucher

I can understand why this would be an unpopular choice, but it is certainly plausible that the Leafs opt to stick with an internal option to take over operations for next season. Boucher is the only one currently on the coaching staff that has experience being a head coach so this would not be a difficult transition for him.
Having said that, there are some reasons for skepticism that this will be a winning strategy. Like Gallant, Boucher also has a short shelf life that will see him take his team on a conference finals run, a playoff miss, and a firing midseason all within three years. He may have familiarity with the players, but the power play unit he ran was one of the major contributors to the Leafs yet again losing to the Bruins in the first round. The optics of promoting a guy who oversaw the man advantage go 1-21 is not a good look but one that the team may look past in the interest of playing it safe.
Honourable Mentions: Jay Woodcroft, Rod Brind’Amour, Dean Evason

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