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Sheldon Keefe should be on the hot seat the rest of this season

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Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Shane Seney
22 days ago
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has taken some heat after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night. Keefe ran out his fourth line against the Lightning’s top line and the line was immediately scored on. Meanwhile, with eight minutes left and down by two goals, Keefe once again sent out his fourth line, leaving many scratching their heads over the decision. Even with an extension in place, Keefe should be coaching for his job the rest of this season.
Yes, the ‘core four’ should be under the spotlight come playoff time as they haven’t been able to produce anything besides one first-round series win, however it’s a lot easier to make a coaching change than it is to move out expensive contracts and completely reshape the roster. Brad Treliving was clearly enough of a fan of Keefe to give him a multi-year contract extension in August, but that doesn’t necessarily mean his job moving forward is set in stone. MLSE has the money to move on, and if this team can’t make a deep run to at least the Eastern Conference Final this season, there should be some hard conversations had between Treliving and Brendan Shanahan.
Keefe has his moments and flashes of brilliance, but unfortunately also has some serious gaffes throughout the season. His lineup management has taken some heat for the amount he tries to throw things into a blender, but from the other side of the coin, at least he’s willing to make a change if he sees something that he doesn’t feel is working. At this point, His regular season record as Maple Leafs’ coach is quite impressive. 209-94-39 for a .668 winning percentage. As we know, though, this hasn’t translated to playoff success, with a 13-17 record to show for. Toronto was finally able to win a first-round series last season after close to two decades, and there’s a ton of pressure on the team to get even further this season, Keefe included.
Treliving’s shown that the likes of William Nylander and Auston Matthews are not going anywhere, and it’s expected that John Tavares and Mitch Marner will be offered contract extensions this summer. While the Leafs GM handed Keefe an extension and guarded him from being a lame-duck, make no mistake about it – if the results don’t come this spring, with the alternative options currently available on the open market, Treliving’s going to have to think long and hard about who is best served to be leading his team from behind the bench.

Keefe Has Some Serious Lineup Considerations to Make

One good thing about this season’s team is the fact there’s a ton of internal competition. With current injuries to a number of players, it’s not necessarily ideal for Keefe as he’s not able to form four lines and three d-pairings that can play together for the next couple of weeks to ensure chemistry is in top form for opening of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There’s a ton of talk about where Marner is going to play on Saturday night when he’s expected to return, and the same can be said for Calle Jarnkrok and Joel Edmundson.
The likes of Nick Robertson, Connor Dewar, Ryan Reaves, Pontus Holmberg, Noah Gregor are all on the bubble up front, and the same case can be made for Mark Giordano, Conor Timmins and Simon Benoit on the back end. Ilya Samsonov has made a good case to be the Game 1 starter as he’s playing lights out of late, and frankly speaking, Joseph Woll’s play of late hasn’t made the decision very hard. As Nick Alberga mentioned earlier today, not to worry, Woll will be fine and is a big part of this organization moving forward.
The penalty kill is something to zone in on. Lately, the Leafs have been fantastic on the kill, and this will be taken into consideration as Keefe decides who is dressing for Game 1. Last year’s playoffs the Leafs PK was atrocious, killing only 73% of their penalties and this unfortunately has been a theme dating back to the Mike Babcock era. The PK will need to be effective against the Boston Bruins or Florida Panthers or the Leafs have no shot. Both teams are ranked in the top-10 for power-play efficiency this season.
Nevertheless, Keefe has just over a couple of weeks to get his team as prepared as possible for playoff success. There’s a ton of question marks surrounding the construction of the lineup and there’s some much-needed conversations to take place between Keefe, Treliving, Shanahan and the leadership group of the roster on what’s best for the group heading into the postseason. As Treliving was recently hired, and the core appears to be locked in, if things don’t go as planned, Keefe could very well be the fall guy, two-year extension and all.

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