A new contract with the Leafs equals a last chance, not job security for Sheldon Keefe

Photo credit:Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
7 months ago
Wednesday the Leafs did what was expected of them, and they extended Sheldon Keefe for another two seasons.
For those of us who have been a bit critical of the job that Sheldon Keefe has done, in particularly in the post season, this isn’t the ideal path that we would have liked to see but at some point, it became the necessary one and to quote the heavily fictionized Moneyball version of Art Howe, “A one year contract means the same thing to a manager as it does to a player. There’s not a lot of faith there.”
The second the Leafs had to deal with the departure of Kyle Dubas and ensuing delay in Brad Treliving getting his feet wet in all things Leafs, the opportunities to put forth an honest to goodness search for a head coach had passed. Sheldon Keefe was locked in and the best way for the Leafs to getting the best out of him was to put him under contract, at the very least removing any financial distractions.
If you are under the illusion that a new contract with the Leafs equals job security, I submit:
That last part of about Randy Carlyle as Wilson’s replacement is still rather grim to read but the point remains that coaches are hired to be fired and while Keefe has enjoyed a pleasant looking regular season record that comes along with having one of the most talented Leafs teams ever assembled, winning one out of five postseason rounds is the stronger argument against maintaining the status quo. If the only criteria for being the head coach of the Leafs was regular season wins we’d still be in the Mike Babcock era.
It should also be pointed out that the Leafs didn’t extend Sheldon Keefe because they plan on firing him at the first sign of trouble. Those of us who are done with the Keefe era won’t get our way that quickly and the Leafs first and foremost want to see him succeed and not have to pay out two years of severance money. The plan is going to be for Keefe to be the Leafs head coach for two of the next three years. That last one really seems to be the cost of doing business in the NHL. We can only hope that the new contract came with a clause that promises Keefe won’t attempt to line match after April 1st.
The move locks the Leafs in with who was the “best available” coach for them this summer and buys Brad Treliving some time further assess what he thinks of the Leafs coach. While the situation is slightly different, in Calgary, Treliving kept Bob Hartley (after he had missed the playoffs), saw the team improve to making it the second round of the playoffs, but then fired Hartley after Treliving’s second full season with the Flames. That’s not exactly enough to say here’s what Treliving does, but it’s enough to at least acknowledge he doesn’t rush to bring in his guy, if in fact he actually has “a guy.”
Keefe away from Kyle Dubas is a first and in some ways I admit that I’m incredibly curious to see what that looks like even if I’m not the most optimistic about it. Sheldon seems like a Charlie O’Brien type that just gets put behind the plate when Greg Maddux is pitching, and right now he is being presented with a great opportunity to prove himself. Keefe still seems to have the trust and the ears of the Leafs players and with no issues to speak of in that regard this experiment seems like it is worth a look.

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