Toronto Maple Leafs – Sheldon Keefe
This one also seems like a massive long shot, but think about this; the Toronto Maple Leafs are heading for a collision course with the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs. It would be sweet for Maple Leafs fans to make that their first playoff series win in 2004. Since Keefe took over for Mike Babcock, the Leafs lost the qualifying round to the Columbus Blue Jackets and a first-round series with the Montreal Canadiens. It’s going to be hard for Keefe to survive another first-round exit when the Maple Leafs are watching the prime of John Tavares disintegrate into his $11 million per year contract.
The Leafs were the favorites against the Blue Jackets and Canadiens. They likely wouldn’t be against the Lightning despite the last game where they destroyed them.
The Maple Leafs always have high expectations that grate on the team. It grinds down even the best of coaches, and players have struggled to meet those expectations. Some players thrive on it. Auston Matthews doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. However, sometimes people are happy to get out of the pressure cooker.
Sheldon Keefe will have a lot of teams to choose from, but he might want to go from a pressure cooker to a very soft landing in New Jersey. It’s not like this is likely to happen, but it’s worth paying attention to come playoff time.