The struggling Toronto Maple Leafs have dismissed head coach Mike Babcock.
Leafs President Brendan Shanahan announced Wednesday that Babcock had been released from his duties and that AHL Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe has been named the club's new head coach.
Toronto has been one of the NHL's biggest disappointments this season, tripping to a record of 9-10-4. The Leafs have just one win since Oct. 26 and are in the midst of a six-game winless streak that has five losses in a row – including Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. It was Toronto's second game on a six-game road trip, and was obviously seen as a critical stretch by management.
Babcock has a career record of 700-41
He was hired by Toronto in May 2015 after retiring from Detroit, and reportedly signed an eight-year contract worth $ 50 million to become the highest-paid coach in NHL history at that time.
After missing the playoffs in its first season, the Leafs reached the playoffs in three straight years but failed to advance from the first round – falling to Washington Capitals 2017 and Boston Bruins 2018 and 2019.
This season has been a dud so far for the leaves. Injuries to center John Tavares and winger Mitch Marner were a factor, but the team's offense (3.14 goals per game) could no longer compensate for their porous defense (3.43 goals per game). The Maple Leafs had the sixth-best combined record in the NHL during the previous two seasons with a percentage of. This year, they ranked 25th (.478).
Keefe, long regarded as the heir apparent to Babcock, trained current Toronto boss Kyle Dubas with Soo Greyhounds in the OHL, and he was hired by Dubas in June 2015 to train the Marlies. The 39-year-old Keefe, a former NHL player, led the Marlies to at least the second round of the playoffs in each of his seasons there, and he won the Calder Cup 2018.
Babcock is one of seven head coaches in the NHL- history with at least 700 wins. During the first eight seasons of his head coach career, he made three Stanley Cup Finals and his team finished first or second in their division seven times. In the next eight seasons, his team never finished higher than third in their division.
Despite all the disappointment and controversy, the Leafs are only two points away from the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, although the Philadelphia Flyers have two games in hand.