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Sheldon Keefe introduced as Devils head coach: ‘There is a lot of hard work ahead’

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
16 days ago
Fewer than four weeks removed from another Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Boston Bruins, things have changed immeasurably for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sheldon Keefe. Keefe was fired on May 9 but he wasn’t out of work for long.
Earlier this morning, the New Jersey Devils introduced Sheldon Keefe as their 20th head coach in franchise history.
Devils managing partner David Blitzer opened the press conference, before president of hockey operations and general manager Tom Fitzgerald spoke about the timeline surrounding Keefe’s hiring.
“When I look back at the process, it was pretty thorough,” Fitzgerald said Tuesday. “I call it the gauntlet to the people who went through it because it was extensive. We spent a lot of time with a lot of great candidates. One thing that I was consistent with was waiting and being patient in the process, allowing the first round to see through and see what possibly could shake out, and I stuck with that. I wasn’t going to budge from that, I wasn’t going to move off of waiting to just hire somebody, but when the Toronto Maple Leafs lost out, I immediately called Brad Treliving, the GM of the Leafs, and asked if it was possible to have permission to talk to Sheldon.”
According to Fitzgerald, New Jersey accelerated its process as soon as Toronto were eliminated from the playoffs. Keefe posted a thank you video to Leafs Nation, which inadvertently sped up his own job search, via Devils team reporter Amanda Stein.
It’s unknown how many other teams — if any — reached out to Brad Treliving and the Maple Leafs about Keefe. But it’s obvious how important this hiring was for the Devils. Fitzgerald revealed that Keefe accepted the head coaching job last Tuesday, exactly two weeks removed from the final game he coached with Toronto.
The team Keefe has been hired to coach in New Jersey is quite similar to the one he coached in Toronto when he took over in late 2019 after the Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock, following a 9-10-4 start to the season. Auston Matthews (22), Mitch Marner (22), William Nylander (23), and Morgan Rielly (25) headlined a young team with loads of potential.
New Jersey shocked the hockey world during the 2022-23 season, making the playoffs after recording 52 wins and 112 points but ran into the injury bug and poor goaltending in 2023-24, which led to Lindy Ruff’s dismissal in March. Travis Green took over on an interim basis.
“There is a lot of work ahead, which is the most exciting part,” Keefe said via Stein.
And why wouldn’t it be? There aren’t many teams in the same situation as the Devils, who exceeded expectations two seasons ago, missed the playoffs this season, and plan to be right back in the playoff mix next season with a tremendously talented young core with tons of potential.
It’s easy to say this now, and it’s unknown how New Jersey will perform under Keefe’s watch. If the Devils received league-average goaltending and didn’t encounter a wave of injuries, they could’ve reached the potential displayed in 2022-23.
Keefe is now tasked with restoring the Devils to prominence, a franchise that won three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) during the height of Martin Brodeur’s career. The 43-year-old is in a smaller market, but the ultimate goal remains in the same.

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