Multiple Coaches Welcomed Sheldon Keefe to ‘Real NHL’ After Leaving Toronto

Sheldon Keefe

Getty Sheldon Keefe

Former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe says he’s been told he’ll be coaching in the “real NHL” now that he has joined the New Jersey Devils.

After Keefe was fired by the Maple Leafs, he was quickly hired by the Devils on a four-year deal. Following his announcement, Keefee spoke to the Toronto Star and revealed he’s been told he’ll be coaching in the real NHL now.

“It was (a) tremendous honor to coach the Maple Leafs,” Keefe said to the Toronto Star. “There’s a lot that goes into that. I’ve had a number of well-established coaches in the league reach out to say that I should be happy now that I get to coach in the real NHL. Toronto is quite unique … it’s not like the rest of the league.”

What exactly those coaches mean by those comments is uncertain, but Maple Leafs fans weren’t happy about them.

But, for Keefe, he says he’s grateful for his time in Toronto and to get his first crack at coaching in the NHL to be with an Original Six team.

“I got a tremendous opportunity to coach in the NHL, in Toronto,” Keefe said. “I had many opportunities to help push the team through the playoffs and failed to do so. So I recognize it from their perspective, there would be desire for change. I had to move on and was told to move on, but now I have another opportunity to start fresh (with a) new organization. I’m excited about it.”

As the head coach of the Maple Leafs, Keefe went 212-97-40 during the regular season and 16-21 in the playoffs.

Sheldon Keefe Checked ‘A Lot Of Boxes’ for Devils

After Keefe was fired by the Maple Leafs, Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald moved quickly to hire him.

After talking to Keefe, Fitzgerald said he knew he was the right man for the job and the person who could lead the franchise to a Stanley Cup.

“Sheldon checks a lot of boxes that I was looking for,” Fitzgerald said, via “From the get-go, it was evident that Sheldon would be a great partner for me. Someone I can partner up with. Someone who can challenge me and vice versa. Groupthink is not something we believe in here. At the end of the day, using those resources in collaboration to make proper decisions on roster, personnel, lineup that night, was important to me. At the end of the day, we have the same goal and that’s to bring the Stanley Cup back to New Jersey.”

The Devils had a disappointing 2023-24 NHL season going 38-39-5 and missed the playoffs.

Keefe Says ‘Expectations Are High’ for Devils

Even though New Jersey missed the playoffs last season, Keefe says the expectations are high for his team.

Keefe believes the Devils can compete for a Stanley Cup next season which is exciting for him.

“The expectations are high, and I’m drawn to that,” Keefe said. “I’ve never coached any team at any level that didn’t expect to win every time they put their equipment on. That’s the case here. That excites me from Day 1. So, here we are.”

Keefe signed a four-year deal with the Devils.

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