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“It’s out of my control”- Sheldon Keefe’s future uncertain as he takes responsibility for Maple Leafs shortcomings

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Like every other member of the Maple Leafs who has appeared today, Sheldon Keefe looked defeated as he stepped to the podium today. He was light on excuses, but also light on answers. Keefe’s priority was taking responsibility for the Maple Leafs playoff shortcomings amidst the uncertainty of what comes next for him in his career.
“We’re in the results business here and we didn’t get results, and we haven’t met expectations. As the head coach I take responsibility for that.”
Keefe elected not to do exit meetings with the players today, “this season in particular, Tre gave me the opportunity to have the meetings. I elected to not have them. Seeing guys off, opening the door for more meaningful conversations in the offseason.” This was a different approach for him, having done them solo in the past or with Kyle Dubas, but it hasn’t had a consistent look during his time as the Leafs’ head coach, “I spoke with the team after the loss moreso than any other season in the past.” Keefe looks at the exit meetings more as a formality and an opportunity to give direction for the offseason and training.
With the uncertainty of Keefe’s employment status with the Leafs, he is likely waiting for confirmation of his continued working relationship with the team before going too far down development paths.

Keefe on the lack of playoff offence

“I thought as the series wore on, offense seems harder to come by. We were leading the league in inner-shot slots and rebounds. Those dried up later on in the series. We didn’t need as much offense to win those games, Games 5 and 6 as an example.”
While Keefe wasn’t offering much in the way of excuses, he did acknowledge that Jeremy Swayman made things particularly difficult for the Maple Leafs: “Playing against a goaltender that had top numbers in the league.”
Additionally special teams were acknowledged as a shortcoming but with the footnote that the Leafs had the best powerplay through February.
On the topic of what started to go wrong offensive, Keefe cited the speed at which the Leafs moved through the neutral zone, “we needed to get through the neutral zone quickly before structure was set.”

On Game 7:

“You’re right there, one shot away” in Game 7.
Sheldon Keefe didn’t direct blame at any one player on the Bruins winning goal when asked. “Obviously we get their best player flying through the neutral zone and we don’t pick him up,” he stated before referencing the fortunate bounce and the need for a save.
“I came out of Game 6 feeling about as good as I have about the Toronto Maple Leafs in my time here.” Keefe expressed his appreciation for the Leafs being able to hang in tighter games and play tougher hockey, and felt that Games 5 & 6 best demonstrated that. There was an attempt at optimism for what comes next for the Leafs along with the usual affirmations for believing in this group.

Keefe’s future

Sheldon Keefe wasn’t about to give himself a vote of confidence. The best he was offering up was that he was going to plan for addressing the Leafs and move forward as much as he could. When he was pressed more specifically his response was:
“So… I’m in the coaching business. You don’t get to make decisions about your position. For me, it’s out of my control. My job is to find solutions and to direct and to find a path for our team to move forward. I accept responsibility for not meeting results. I believe in myself greatly and I love coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I’ve been through a lot to get to this level. The path looks different. I know I’m in a good place. That decision is out of my control. My job is to look to find solutions as a coach and take responsibility for not meeting expectations. I’d like the attention to be on me, you have to be accountable when you don’t meet expectations.”
This seems like someone who is waiting for the other shoe to drop and while he took ownership for the Leafs coming up short, he is also proud of what he has accomplished. With the Maple Leafs management team slated to speak on Thursday, it is possible the fate of Sheldon Keefe’s employment with the Leafs will be determined by then.
Thanks to Arun Srinivasan for the availability transcription.

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