The Toronto Maple Leafs are heading into a new era with head coach Sheldon Keefe at the helm. But before a single game has been played, general manager Kyle Dubas had some reflective words on the past few years with Mike Babcock.
Among the many topics he covered in his carousel of radio appearances, Dubas touched on the possibility of making this personnel decision back in the offseason.
Kyle Dubas to @OverDrive1050 on why #Leafs didn't make coaching change in the summer: "People are befuddled by the fact that we could have done it then. I understand it doesn't put the team or Sheldon into a great spot but the reality is that I really wanted it to work with Mike"— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 21, 2019
After the second consecutive first-round loss to the Boston Bruins, it would have been understandable to make the change, but Dubas wanted to give it another shot with the highly-regarded coach in charge.
Foregoing the emotional firing last summer, Dubas opened the possibility of this mid-season coaching change and recognizes that it’s not the most ideal situation for both Keefe or the players.
Even before the change was made, the 33-year-old GM had only one coach in mind to be the replacement.
Kyle Dubas asked on @OverDrive1050 if any other coaches were considered:— Justin Cuthbert (@jccuthbert) November 21, 2019
“None at all. Just Sheldon”
The two have been connected since Dubas brought Keefe on to coach the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League in 2012 and then later was brought in as the coach for the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, in 2015.
Both of them together have gone beyond expectations with an electric and intense style of play, catching the ire of some more traditional hockey minds.
Dubas, however, believes in their way and wants to see it blossom in the NHL. So much so that he is willing to risk his position.
More from Dubas on @OverDrive1050, on the Maple Leafs forging their own, distinct path, and the skepticism that comes with it:— Justin Cuthbert (@jccuthbert) November 21, 2019
“I have full belief that it will be (successful). I’m willing to bet my job, and my career on it.”
With a Moneyball-esque mentality, Dubas believes wholeheartedly that his philosophy can work on hockey’s largest stage.
With 59 regular season games remaining for the Maple Leafs, there’s plenty of time to install this new playing style and hope it ends up with a spot in the playoffs.
Toronto has a 9-10-4 record on the season, before Keefe makes his NHL coaching debut against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
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