On Wednesday, Mike Babcock was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and replaced by Sheldon Keefe — and the move was more than just a simple coaching change.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and his new head coach have a long hockey history together.
In 2012, as general manager for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, Dubas hired Keefe as head coach of his junior team.
Keefe proved his worth, racking up wins over his four-year tenure, and was named Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year in 2015.
From there, Dubas became assistant general manager of the Leafs and hired Keefe to lead the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.
Once again, the hire paid off, and Keefe led the Marlies to the organization’s first Calder Cup in 2018. He holds the franchise record for most wins.
Then, on Wednesday, a third collaboration occurred between the two.
Now the Leafs general manager, Dubas hired Keefe as a first-time head coach in the National Hockey League to lead the Leafs out of turmoil and produce winning results.
With the hiring of Keefe, Dubas has played his hand by firing Babcock and replacing him with “his guy.”
If the coaching change doesn’t propel the players and organization to success, the good news for Keefe is he won’t have to be worried about being fired by Dubas — as the next casualty won’t be the coach but the GM himself.