The Toronto Maple Leafs announced the firing of head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday afternoon.
The decision came the day after the Maple Leafs lost 4-2 at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights to fall to 0-5-1 in their last six and 9-10-4 on the season.
Babcock will be replaced by Sheldon Keefe, who has been the head coach of the Toronto Marlies — the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate — for the last four-and-a-half seasons.
“Today, we made the decision to relieve Mike Babcock of his coaching duties and named Sheldon Keefe our new head coach,” said Brendan Shanahan, the Maple Leafs’ President and Alternate Governor, according to TSN’s Mark Masters. “Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise.
“Mike's commitment and tireless work ethic has put our organization in a better place and we are extremely grateful and appreciative of the foundation he has helped us build here.”
Babcock’s assistant coaches — Paul McFarland, Dave Hakstol and Andrew Brewer — will all remain with the Maple Leafs, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
Since coming to Toronto to begin the 2015-16 season — the same campaign Keefe started coaching the Marlies — Babcock’s squads have lost in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs three times and missed the postseason altogether once.
“I thought we did an amazing job taking a franchise from where it was to where we had 100-point seasons, we set franchise records if I’m not mistaken, got into the playoffs,” said Babcock about his dismissal, courtesy of Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic.
“I’m disappointed, we didn’t have the start to the year we wanted and that’s on me. I want to thank the fans, I want to thank the media, I want to thank the city. It was spectacular. I loved every second of it. And I wish the new group nothing but success...”
Babcock’s dismissal comes with three-and-half years remaining on the historic eight-year, $50 million contract he signed with the team in May of 2015. He leaves with a cumulative regular season record of 173-133-45 during his time as the Maple Leafs head coach.
His previous NHL head coaching experience includes two seasons with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the early 2000s and ten with the Detroit Red Wings, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2008.
The 56-year-old became just the eighth head coach in NHL history to win 700 regular season games, accomplishing the feat earlier this month on Nov. 7. That game — a 2-1 overtime victory against the Golden Knights — will ultimately stand as his last win with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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