Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe signed a two-year contract extension Wednesday, general manager Brad Treliving announced. Keefe will be under contract through the 2025-26 season.
Keefe was hired on Nov. 20, 2019, taking over after Mike Babcock was fired. He has posted a cumulative 166-71-30 record during the regular season and the Maple Leafs have recorded a .622 winning percentage during that span, the fourth-best in the NHL.
"Coaching this team has been a great privilege, and I'm truly excited at the opportunity to continue building towards our ultimate goal," Keefe said in a statement. "I'm thankful for the support from MLSE and its ownership along with Brendan Shanahan and Brad Treliving, who I've really enjoyed getting to know and work with this off-season.
"We have so many great players and people within our organization that I'm grateful to work with, and together our commitment to team success remains steadfast."
Although he’s been tremendously successful during the regular season, Keefe was considered by many to be on the hot seat after the Maple Leafs were upended by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the 2022-23 playoffs.
Treliving said during his introductory press conference that he’d have to get to know Keefe better before making an assessment on an extension, with one year remaining on Keefe’s existing deal. It’s clear that Keefe made a strong impression in their initial meetings, while the Maple Leafs added Guy Boucher and Mike van Ryn to his coaching staff.
"Since I've joined the Maple Leafs, I've been very impressed with Sheldon," Treliving said Wednesday. "He has shown great leadership skills with his staff and our players, and has a clear vision for this team and where it needs to get to.
"Sheldon has established himself as one of the top coaches in the league and I look forward to working alongside him as we head into the upcoming season."
Treliving on Keefe's leadership: When I look at coming in here, accountability would be a good word. Sheldon was transparent and accountable for what's going on here. As we look to get better, you start with yourself and critiquing your own performance. Sheldon has done that.
— Arun Srinivasan (@Arunthings) August 30, 2023
Keefe is clearly Treliving’s guy now and there are no more excuses if the Maple Leafs cannot sustain a lengthy postseason run, with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander firmly in the primes of their career.
Prior to joining the Maple Leafs, Keefe oversaw the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and was strongly considered a prime candidate for internal promotion. Keefe is generally well-liked by his players and the Maple Leafs are consistently among the best offensive teams under his watch, while the team’s defense corps — once a liability — has shown gradual improvement during his tenure.
Keefe’s critics will note that he was outcoached by Jon Cooper and Paul Maurice in successive postseasons and needs to improve on his in-game adjustments, largely relying on his 11-forward, 7-defense format to keep opponents off-balance. He’s 42 years old and if the Maple Leafs get over the proverbial hump with Keefe behind the bench, he has the potential to become one of the great coaches in franchise history.
There were several major pieces for the Maple Leafs to juggle this offseason and Treliving has managed the chaos gamely, getting Matthews signed to a four-year extension and now Keefe to a two-year pact. It’s now on Keefe to maximize the talents of a tremendously gifted group that produces less than the sum of its tremendous parts during the playoffs.