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Sheldon Keefe fired as Maple Leafs’ head coach after 5 seasons

Sheldon Keefe fired as Maple Leafs' head coach after 5 seasons

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Sheldon Keefe days after the team lost its First Round series to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

“Today’s decision was difficult," said Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving in a statement. "Sheldon is an excellent coach and a great man; however, we determined a new voice is needed to help the team push through to reach our ultimate goal. We thank Sheldon for his hard work and dedication to the organization over the last nine years, and wish him and his family all the very best.”

Keefe took over as Maple Leafs' head coach in Nov. 2019 when he replaced Mike Babcock. In parts of five seasons he led the team to a 212-97-40 record, which includes three straight 100-point seasons.

While the team experienced regular-season success under Keefe, it was the postseason where they came up short.

The Maple Leafs' First Round issues have long been documented, with the franchise having only advanced to the Second Round once since 2004. That one time, 2022-23, came with Keefe in charge. But three First Round exits — all in seven games — plus a qualifying round defeat against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs upped the pressure for management to make a change.

Keefe's two-year contract extension, which he signed last summer following the hiring of general manager Brad Treliving, has not kicked in yet.

The Maple Leafs are tied for the NHL's longest active playoff streak at eight seasons, but seven of those eight seasons has seen them exit the playoffs in the First Round. After being down 3-1 against the Bruins and forcing a Game 7, they fell 2-1 in overtime in the deciding game.

Another early-round loss meant that changes were coming, and likely beginning with the head coach.

"We are in the results business here," Keefe said after Monday's Game 7 loss to the Bruins. "We didn't get results. We haven't met expectations. As head coach, I take responsibility for that … My job as a head coach is to find solutions and chart a path ahead for the group to come through and succeed at the most important time of year. We haven't done that."

Treliving will now get to hire his own head coach after inheriting Keefe from previous general manager Kyle Dubas.

Keefe was a first-time NHL head coach when he was hired. If Treliving is looking for experience in the role he can look at names likes Craig Berube, who won a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019; Gerard Gallant, who has coached 17 seasons in the NHL with four teams; and Todd McLellan, who was most recently behind the Los Angeles Kings' bench and has 19 seasons of coaching experience in the league.

If a fresh face is the route the Maple Leafs want to go again, Denver University's David Carle has led the Pioneers to two of the last three NCAA men's titles and guided the U.S. men's national junior team to World Junior Championship gold in January.

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