A Deep Dive Into Sheldon Keefe’s Coaching Resume

Sheldon Keefe coaches a Maple Leafs game

On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils announced Sheldon Keefe as the 31st head coach in franchise history.

This comes after the Devils fired former head coach, Lindy Ruff, in March, following a lackluster performance in a season that began with high expectations for the team.

Keefe was relieved of his head coaching duties by the Toronto Maple Leafs after their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

Keefe’s Coaching Tenure

Pembroke Lumber Kings (2006-2012)

Keefe landed his first head coaching position in 2006, with the Pembroke Lumber Kings, a Junior A team in the Central Canada Hockey League.

The Lumber Kings went 41-10-2-2 under Keefe’s first year of leadership and went on to win the league championship.

Keefe’s team proceeded to win four more championships consecutively, and the Lumber Kings became the first franchise in CCHL history to win five league titles in a row.

He left the CCHL during the 2012-13 season, completing his coaching tenure in Pembroke with a .742 winning percentage.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (2012-2015)

Keefe’s success continued when he was hired by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in December of 2012.

In his first full year with the franchise, the Greyhounds went 44-17-7 and won their division before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters.

The 2014-15 season was even more impressive for Keefe’s Greyhounds, who finished with a 54-12-2 record. In the playoffs, they reached the Western Conference finals but were again eliminated by the Erie Otters.

Toronto Marlies (2015-2019)

Keefe joined the Toronto Marlies, the Toronto Maple Leafs American Hockey League affiliate, before the 2015-16 season.

He led the team to the playoffs in each year as head coach, including 2018 when the Marlies won the first Calder Cup Championship in franchise history.

He finished his AHL tenure with a 199-89-31 record.

Toronto Maple Leafs (2019-2024)

Keefe was brought up to the NHL in November 2019 after the Maple Leafs parted ways with former coach Mike Babcock.

Toronto had three 100+ point seasons under Keefe’s leadership. They also made the postseason each year with him behind the bench.

The Maple Leafs only managed one first-round series victory during Keefe’s tenure, but it was the first time Toronto reached the second round since 2004 under Pat Quinn.

During that time, they went through five head coaches, including Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle, Peter Horachek (interim), and Mike Babcock, before returning to the second round with Keefe in 2023.

Keefe was released by Toronto with a 212-97-40 record and a .607 winning percentage in 349 games.

Expectations with the Devils

The Devils are getting a coach with a history of winning at every level. While a surface-level assessment of Keefe’s NHL coaching career might show playoff struggles, he still earned a first-round victory with the Maple Leafs, a feat that has escaped numerous coaches over nearly 20 years primarily due to cap management and roster construction.

Keefe also has experience successfully developing young stars in the NHL. Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner have all established themselves as dynamic offensive players under his leadership, and the Devils have some similarities in their own roster with young and highly skilled forwards. Keefe’s system could allow players like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, and Jesper Bratt to succeed even more than they already have.

Additionally, Keefe now has upcoming defensive stars Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, as well as veteran Dougie Hamilton, who is returning from injury. With the remaining cap space, Tom Fitzgerald also has some flexibility to add another piece to the strong foundation of defensemen in New Jersey.

Ultimately, Keefe and the Devils’ success will come down to the depth adds and goaltending. Fitzgerald still has work to do to solidify the bottom six forward positions, strengthen the defense, and find a number-one goalie.

It also remains to be seen who will be hired as assistant coach after Travis Green signed with the Ottawa Senators.

The offseason is just beginning for New Jersey, but hiring Sheldon Keefe is a good starting point.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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