The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock on Wednesday and promoted Sheldon Keefe from their AHL franchise to take over head coaching duties.
Babcock, 56, was in his fifth season the Maple Leafs, posting a 173-133-45 regular-season record and an 8-12 mark in three postseason appearances. Toronto is 9-10-4 this season and is winless in its past six games (0-5-1), its longest losing streak since an 0-5-1 stretch from Feb. 27-March 7, 2016.
“Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement.
“Mike’s commitment and tireless work ethic has put our organization in a better place and we are extremely grateful and appreciative of the foundation he has helped us build here. At this time, we collectively felt that it was best to make a change to Sheldon Keefe.”
The Maple Leafs lost 4-2 at the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday after holding a player-only meeting. They play at the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night in the third game of a six-game road trip.
“We collectively have to pull our way out of this, so that involves everyone — that’s myself in management, our staff, the players and coaching staff alike,” general manager Kyle Dubas told NHL.com on Tuesday at the general managers meetings. “We’ve all got to find our way through and continue to analyze that and how we can all help each other. ...
“I think I will be disappointed if in the coming days, weeks, we don’t begin to show a greater resolve and strength and fortitude to get back to playing the way that we’ve shown even earlier this season, and doing that for 60 minutes and doing that for days and months at a time. That’s what we think our capabilities are.”
Keefe, 39, was 199-89-22-9 in four-plus seasons with Toronto Marlies, who twice won the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s top team in the regular season. Keefe went 38-21 in four postseason appearances and led the Marlies to their first Calder Cup championship in 2018.
Keefe was a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999 and played in 125 games with the franchise from 2000 to 2003.
The Maple Leafs did not make any other changes to their coaching staff.
Toronto was Babcock’s third stop as a head coach, with previous stints in Anaheim (2002-04) and Detroit (2005-2015), where he won a Stanley Cup in 2008. He has a career NHL coaching record of 700-418-19-164.
—Field Level Media