New Jersey Devils have one thing Sheldon Keefe never had with Maple Leafs

There is one distinct difference between the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils, and it should give Devils fans hope for Sheldon Keefe as head coach.
New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils / Elsa/GettyImages

One of the biggest Toronto Maple Leafs flaws during the Sheldon Keefe era was the defense. It is a big reason that they only have won one playoff series since drafting Auston Matthews (they have made the playoffs in every year of his career). 

Morgan Rielly is the best defenseman that Sheldon Keefe has had in the NHL and it isn’t close. The left-handed defenseman has been nothing short of great for his entire career. 

With the New Jersey Devils, Keefe will have something he never had in Toronto. He will now have Dougie Hamilton on his blue line. Hamilton is the best right-handed defenseman that Keefe will have ever coached. He may even be the best no matter what handedness. 

Hamilton was injured in November and didn’t return. That is a big reason that New Jersey had a down year in 2023-24. He will be good to go by the time camp begins in September. 

The New Jersey Devils have a few defensemen that Sheldon Keefe will love

You can also claim that John Marino and Simon Nemec will be the best right-handers he’s had in defense, too. Nemec was a second-overall pick that already looks like he could be a star in the NHL. Keefe would love that for a variety of reasons. 

Add Luke Hughes who is a supremely skilled left-handed defenseman and you have the makings of an elite group. With more development and a better goaltender, the Devils should drastically improve their goal prevention. 

Hamilton has finished as high as 4th in Norris Trophy voting. He is truly one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. Sheldon Keefe needs to find a way to get the most out of him. 

It will be interesting to see how he handles a defenseman this good. If everything goes well with Hamilton’s return, this Devils team will take another big step in 2024-25.