Toronto Maple Leafs fire head coach Mike Babcock, promote Sheldon Keefe to role
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Mike Babcock replaced him with Sheldon Keefe. Babcock had a record of 9-10-4 in 2019-20 for the struggling Leafs, who are 0-5-1 in their last six games, including five straight losses in regulation. Hired as part of Toronto's massive rebuild in the spring of 2015, the 56-year-old Babcock went 173-133-45 in his four-plus seasons with Toronto. After signing the richest coaching contract in NHL history at US$50 million over eight years, Babcock got Toronto to the playoffs the last three straight seasons, but was unable to advance beyond the first round.
general manager Kyle Dubas is holding himself accountable for the departure of former head coach Mike Babcock.
"I'm disappointed in myself ... that coming into the job, knowing Mike was the coach, you certainly want everything to work out," Dubas told assembled media, including, on Thursday.
" ... I tried to do as best I could ... and I'm disappointed in myself and only myself that it didn't work out, that we couldn't become simpatico on every single topic."
The Maple LeafsBabcock on Wednesday, replacing him with former Toronto Marlies bench boss Sheldon Keefe following a 9-10-4 start that has threatened what was supposed to be the club's most promising campaign in recent memory.
Babcock firing a step toward solving greater Maple Leafs problem
It had to happen. It was merely a matter of when, where, and in which fashion. The Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday, and though it registered as a relative bombshell, it really came as no surprise to anyone with their finger on the pulse of the sport. What started as a season of great hope in Toronto has been derailed through one-quarter of the schedule - punctuated by a six-game losing streak - and someone had to pay. The coach almost always goes first.The timing - the team is in the middle of a road trip and there are 59 games remaining in the regular season - isn't especially eyebrow-raising, either.
"Our major way of looking at it was, 'Is this best for the long term of the group?'" Dubas. "Not to sit here at the end of the weekend and say was this a success or not but in the long run was this the best thing to do for our program?
"And (Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and I) both agreed that it absolutely was."
Babcock led the team through a rebuilding season in 2015-16 before helping the Maple Leafs reach the playoffs in three straight campaigns. The club failed to advance out of the first round in each of those postseason appearances, however, and a regressive start in 2019-20 signaled to Dubas it was time to make a change.
" ... Our ups and downs, our inconsistency a little bit, and just kind of reading off the players and watching them and how they were reacting to different things that it was time to potentially go down this path," Dubas.
Toronto Maple Leafs fire Mike Babcock: How Twitter reacted
Reporters scrambled to identify where the organization stands, analysts predicted where Babcock's future lies and a few former players offered some hot takes.The news disseminated through Twitter quickly — and analysts, reporters and more around the league offered their initial thoughts on the franchise-altering news as it sank in that Babcock would be replaced by the franchise's AHL head coach, Sheldon Keefe.
Tuesday's loss to the Vegas Golden Knights pushed the Leafs' losing streak to six contests, the longest such slide of the-Babcock era.
Asked if Babcock had lost the room, Shanahan dismissed the notion but admitted there has been something amiss with the club.
"Certainly from a player's perspective you could see the frustration in their eyes and I really thought even in our last game that the players were working hard but there was a sort of a belief missing in them," Shanahan.
Keefe will coach his first NHL game Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes as the Maple Leafs look to turn their season around.
Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Want a Sweet Gig? Don’t Coach the Toronto Maple Leafs .
TORONTO — If there is one thing most hockey observers can agree on, it’s that coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs is a perilous job. Mike Babcock, who was fired on Wednesday after four-plus years with the team, was the sixth Leafs coach to be dismissed since 2006, following Peter Horachek, Randy Carlyle, Ron Wilson, Paul Maurice and Pat Quinn. To replace Babcock, the team promoted Sheldon Keefe from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.The former N.H.L. general manager Craig Button attributed Toronto’s long list of coach firings to an imbalance between performance and expectations in a city that has been aching for a Stanley Cup since 1967.