New Jersey Devils Are Interviewing Recently Fired Toronto Maple Leafs Coach

Reports say the New Jersey Devils will immediately open their interview process to Sheldon Keefe, the recently fired Toronto Maple Leafs head coach.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils are steeped in their head coaching search. GM Tom Fitzgerald has reportedly spoken to Craig Berube, Todd McLellan and Jay Woodcroft, very recent head coaches who are looking for their next stop. Now, reports say the Devils are talking to another recent head coach looking for his next opportunity.

The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Sheldon Keefe on Thursday, leaving him to look for a new job with two years left on his contract. However, he likely won't be without a job long. Keefe was incredibly successful before his run with the Leafs. He started his career in the CJHL, coaching a franchise he also owned. Then, after selling the Pembroke Lumber Kings to former NHL player Dale McTavish, he was hired (by current Pittsburgh Penguins GM Kyle Dubas) to be the Soo Greyhounds head coach in the OHL.

He followed Dubas to the Toronto organization, taking over the Toronto Marlies head coaching job in 2015. He was very successful in Toronto's minor league organization, winning the Calder Cup in 2018.

He eventually took over midseason when the Leafs fired Mike Babcock. His first season was in 2019-20, the season that was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Keefe was unable to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round despite going 27-15-5 behind the bench.

Keefe was taking over an incredible roster that already included John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Having that kind of star power in the biggest hockey city in the world comes with a lot of pressure, which Keefe felt immediately. The fact the Leafs spent two decades unable to get out of the first round became a meme.

He was finally able to get to the second round last season, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. However, he was only able to get the Leafs to one win in the second round. This season, he got the Leafs to fight back against the Boston Bruins after going down 3-1 in the series to force Game 7. He had an injured Auston Matthews, William Nylander dealing with migraines, and an ineffective Marner/Tavares, but the loss in overtime of Game 7 still cost him his job.

Would this be a good hire by the Devils? It depends on the context. We've mentioned Keefe as an option in the past. Just last season, we said the Devils should attempt to give Keefe the same role that Andrew Brunette held that season after he left to coach the Nashville Predators.

However, that was a much different situation. The Devils still had Lindy Ruff in place, and Keefe would act as a "coach in waiting." Here, the Devils are trusting their entire future with a coach who has been incredible in the regular season but struggles in the playoffs. We must admit, we were impressed when we learned Keefe hasn't lost 100 games in the regulation yet in his career, and the Devils do have to make the playoffs before going on runs.

Honestly, the Devils are in an enviable position. They have a great core, and the best head coaching candidates will wait for them to make a decision before accepting other offers. It's not lost on us that the only two coaches hired this offseason are Lindy Ruff and Travis Green, the two coaches who led the Devils last season. If they want Keefe and the Penguins don't let go of Sullivan, they can likely have him.