The Toronto Maple Leafs are a storied franchise in the world of professional hockey, with a history dating back over 100 years. But in recent years, the team has struggled to find consistent success on the ice, despite a talented roster and a passionate fan base. As a result, the Maple Leafs have gone through numerous coaching changes in an effort to turn things around.
But how have these changes affected the team’s performance? Has it helped them or hindered them in their pursuit of a championship? Let’s take a closer look at the Maple Leafs coaching changes and their impact on the team.
The Rise and Fall of Mike Babcock
In 2015, the Maple Leafs made a highly anticipated coaching change, hiring Mike Babcock from the Detroit Red Wings. Babcock was highly regarded as one of the best coaches in the NHL, having won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and leading Team Canada to two gold medals in the Olympics.
Many believed that Babcock’s arrival would be the spark the Maple Leafs needed to return to their winning ways. And for the first year, it seemed to be working. The team improved their record by 20 points and made it to the postseason for the first time in four years.
But as the years went on, the team’s performance started to decline. Injuries and changes to the roster made it difficult for the team to find consistency. And after a few disappointing seasons, the Maple Leafs decided to part ways with Babcock in 2019.
The Sheldon Keefe Era Begins
With the firing of Babcock, the Maple Leafs turned to their AHL head coach, Sheldon Keefe, to take over. Keefe had been highly successful with the Toronto Marlies, leading them to a Calder Cup Championship in 2018. And his arrival seemed to have an immediate impact on the team.
Under Keefe, the Maple Leafs went on a winning streak and climbed up the standings. They even managed to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues, in a decisive 5-2 victory. But despite the initial success, the Maple Leafs were ultimately unable to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
While Keefe’s style of play was exciting and fast-paced, it was also quite risky. The team’s defensive struggles and lack of discipline on the ice led to inconsistency in their performance. And without a top-tier goaltender, the Maple Leafs couldn’t overcome these challenges.
Looking for Stability with Sheldon Keefe
After a disappointing finish to the 2019-2020 season, the Maple Leafs re-signed Keefe to a three-year contract extension. This decision was met with mixed reactions from fans and the media, with some questioning whether Keefe was the right choice for the team.
But with the new roster additions of experienced players like Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds, and the return of a healthy Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs seemed poised for success in the 2020-2021 season.
And so far, Keefe has proven his worth. The Maple Leafs currently sit atop the North Division with a 12-3-2 record, the best in the NHL. The team is playing with confidence and consistency, and many credit Keefe for creating a positive culture within the locker room.
But it’s still early in the season, and the Maple Leafs will face many challenges in the upcoming months. Can Keefe continue to lead the team to success? Only time will tell.
The Impact of Coaching Changes on Players
Coaching changes not only affect the team’s performance as a whole, but they also have a significant impact on individual players. With each new coaching style and system, players must adjust their playing style and adapt to new roles on the team.
For some players, these changes can be invigorating, and they may thrive under a new coach. But for others, it can be a difficult adjustment, and they may struggle to find their place on the team.
One player who has experienced this firsthand is William Nylander. Under Babcock, Nylander was often benched and saw a decline in his playing time. But with Keefe, he has become a top performer for the team and currently leads the Maple Leafs in goals scored.
The Future of the Maple Leafs
As of now, the Maple Leafs are off to a promising start under Keefe’s guidance. But the team’s ultimate goal remains to win a Stanley Cup, and this will require consistency and stability in their performance.
The Maple Leafs have put their trust in Keefe, and it’s up to him to lead the team to success. But with a talented roster and a passionate fan base, it’s clear that the Maple Leafs have the potential to bring a championship home to Toronto in the near future.