Mike Babcock has been fired as the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, GM Brendan Shanahan announced on Wednesday.
Sheldon Keefe, currently the coach of the Leafs farm team, has been named in his place. Keefe was in his fifth season as head coach of the Toronto Marlies.
The Leafs (9-10-4) have struggled so far this season and are currently on a six-game slide, with the latest loss being handed to them by the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. The team currently only has two regulation wins in 16 games.
“Today, we made the decision to relieve Mike Babcock of his coaching duties and named Sheldon Keefe our new head coach,” said Shanahan in a statement. “Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise.
“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.”
Babcock signed an eight-year, $50-million contract on May 25, 2015. Management was hopeful that Babcock would help lead the storied franchised to its first Stanley Cup since 1967.
Since taking the reins, Babcock has brought Toronto to the playoffs the past three seasons, however, the team has been unable to advance past the first round. The Leafs have been ousted by division-rival Boston Bruins for two straight years.
The Maple Leafs posted a record of 173-133-45 in 351 regular season games under Babcock.
Before taking the coaching position with the Leafs, Babcock spent 10 years with the Detroit Red Wings, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2008. Prior to that he spent two years with the then-Anaheim Mighty Ducks, where he took the team to a Stanley Cup Final in the 2002-2003 season.
He’s also the owner of two Olympic gold medals from 2010 and 2014 when he coached the Canadian men’s hockey team.
Toronto sits fifth in its division and are two points out of a wildcard playoff spot.
“At this time, we collectively felt that it was best to make a change to Sheldon Keefe. Sheldon’s record with the Marlies in terms of development and on-ice success during his time in our organization has compelled us all to feel that he is the right person to take us to the next stage in our evolution,” the Leafs statement continued.
Toronto Mayor John Tory praised Babcock in a post on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
“Thank you to Mike Babcock for your leadership as coach of our @MapleLeafs through the last five seasons,” he wrote.
“You were a class act throughout your time here and you helped make hockey exciting again in Toronto. All the best!”
Toronto takes on the Arizona Coyotes Thursday evening. Puck drop is set for 9 p.m. ET.