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TLN Roundtable: Berube’s honeymoon and Keefe’s legacy

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Photo credit:Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
1 month ago
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The summer of drastic change is already underway for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Craig Berube is the 32nd head coach in Maple Leafs history, replacing Sheldon Keefe, while Brendan Shanahan and Brad Treliving look for further answers.
Without further ado, here is our staff roundtable on the latest moves behind the bench.

Editor’s note: Craig Berube was officially named head coach on Friday afternoon. All submissions were filed prior to Berube’s hiring. 

Who should be the Maple Leafs’ next head coach and why?

Michael Mazzei: All signs are pointing to Craig Berube being the next Leafs head coach and it makes a lot of sense to me why that seems to be the case. He checks the boxes of what they are looking for with regards to Keefe’s replacement: an experienced coach who knows what it takes to win, preaches accountability, has a strong forechecking system that will be effective in the playoffs, and can be an effective communicator. Whether or not this will work is to be determined, but I believe he will be a good change of pace and will do his best because he was expressed genuine interest in wanting to be here.
Shane Seney: Craig Berube would be a great get. His in your face style is something this team could use and his ways to motivate will be a little bit more intense than Sheldon Keefe so it will be interesting to see if it works. Berube’s won a Cup and you can’t discredit that, so they would be bringing in a winner as they should.
Arun Srinivasan: Craig Berube is widely reported to become the next Maple Leafs’ head coach, which would be a fine choice. I’ve written extensively about the NHL recycling the same 40 men for 32 jobs and really, I don’t know if going back to one of the Old Boys Club is the most prudent move. David Carle has won two NCAA titles at Denver and though he’s 34, his style of communication should bode well with a Leafs team entering their prime. Berube will almost certainly become the head coach and Shanahan appears allergic to anyone outside of the NHL’s established ecosystem but I’m going to use this space to advocate for Carle, or Jay Leach, who worked wonders in the Bruins and Kraken’s developmental systems.
Bennett Jull: It seems rather clear that Craig Berube is the favourite to land the job, and soon. I don’t mind Berube, I think they could do worse, and given who/what is currently available on the market, I think he’s the best choice. While he has winning pedigree and a history of challenging his best players (which I think are two crucial things for the Leafs), I am slightly concerned that he didn’t win in a conventional way. Berube’s Blues went on a magical run thanks to many oddities including Binnington’s crazy inflated save percentage, but at least he’s been to the summit. My run away favourite is Mike Sullivan, who is currently in a somewhat tense situation in Pittsburgh. Sullivan has a winning pedigree, and a history of coaching elite players in their primes. Part of me wondered if Keefe would reunite with his old pal Kyle Dubas in Pittsburgh, leaving Sullivan looking for something new. That all seems highly unlikely now.

What is Sheldon Keefe’s legacy with the Maple Leafs?

Mazzei: Sheldon Keefe will be remembered as the coach that guided his team to great success in the regular season and could only win one playoff series in his five seasons in charge. While it may be unfair to simplify it this way because he was by all accounts a nice man who cherished the opportunity, the reality is that coahces are evaluated on results and he could not get it done when it mattered the most (He got outcoached by Dominic Ducharme). There will certainly be some gripes with his tactual adjustments and tendencies to not make major changes right away, yet he certainly did something right to be able to coach the Leafs to some of their best regular season finishes ever. All the best to him wherever he goes next, but the time had come for a change behind the bench.
Seney: Keefe’s legacy will be he was a player’s coach who had a ton of regular season success but couldn’t get the job done in the playoffs. Keefe got in his own way sometimes with all the tinkering and adjustments to the lineup and it’s kind of ironic he wasn’t willing to change his power-play units enough to find success when it mattered most.  Keefe won’t be out of a job long and for him to start his NHL coaching career in Toronto and to handle it as well as he did, says something about his character and abilities. He’ll be coaching in the league a long time and will eventually end up back with Dubas in Pittsburgh at some point down the road.
Srinivasan: Keefe will be best known for his work with the Toronto Marlies. It’s not that his .665 winning percentage is unimpressive, it’s just that he was routinely outcoached by Jon Cooper and Paul Maurice when the games truly mattered. He will be best known as a player-friendly coach who improved the team’s culture after Mike Babcock’s corrosive tenure. Beyond that, Keefe will be unfortunately categorized as a man who couldn’t get the most of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander in the early stages of their respective primes during the playoffs. It won’t deter other teams from hiring Keefe, but he wasn’t the man for a Cup-ready roster.
Jull: Keefe will best be known for being the setup coach. Perhaps this is my heart speaking, but I think/hope that when we look back on his time with the Leafs, it was the period just before success. He will also be remembered for his time with the Marlies, and the success he had with them.

How long should the honeymoon period last for the new coach?

Mazzei: It is easy to say that after Game 1 of the regular season because that is what a lot of Leafs fans will begin to critically assess the new bench boss’s performance. In reality, that will last at least a year or two depending on how things go for the Leafs in the time after this new coach is hired.
Seney: Two years, if things aren’t working Treliving needs to change course. Auston Matthews won’t be around forever and if this team isn’t able to win a Cup with Matthews on the roster it should be deemed a failure
Srinivasan: There should be no honeymoon period. Marriage takes work, let’s get right to it. If the Leafs indeed hire Berube, the goal is simple: win two rounds or more, you have three years, or you can get the hell out. We don’t need to make it more nuanced than it has to be.
Jull: Training camp? A month or two? The window is now… Shanahan’s leash is shorter than ever, and while Berube will be judged on playoff success, anything less than being a playoff team through the majority of the season will put him in the doghouse.

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