Game Day Primer: Game #12, Tampa Bay @ Toronto

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It’s ironic that the Leafs are hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning on the day that Leafs Nation is finally questioning Sheldon Keefe’s ability to coach a team successfully, because after all of the terrible playoff series losses that he suffered, it’s Lightning coach, Jon Cooper, that he was finally able to get the better of.

For what it’s worth, it’s my belief that if these teams face each other again this year, Jon Cooper will adjust and win the day, but I digress.

I really don’t want to sit here and rehash how John Tortorella coached a much less skilled Columbus Blue Jackets team to a 3-2 victory in the 2020 qualifying round over Keefe, or how Dominic Ducharme, of all coaches, had the Montreal Canadiens make the Leafs look foolish in 2021 after the Leafs took a 3-1 series lead, only to lose the next 3 contests. I also don’t want to look back on the zamboni driver fiasco, the way the Florida Panthers ran over the Leafs in last years 2nd round series or any of the other embarrassing moments that Keefe has been behind the bench for over the past 4 years.

Pouring over his inability to adjust his coaching in game, his inability to prepare his team to start games, the inability to finish a period without allowing a goal, the inability to count to 5 and avoid a too-many-men penalty, the inability to hold players accountable, the inability to hold players accountable and the inability to hold players accountable would only result in the loss of the laptop that I’m currently typing on, as the frustration would eventually boil over and I would throw it across the room.

I don’t want to talk about all of that because we’ve been through it before and we all know that Keefe isn’t a great coach.

Also, because that’s not my job.

It’s Brad Treliving’s job.

So lets rewind to late August, just a couple of short months ago and bring up the fact that Sheldon Keefe was handed a 2 year extension by the gentleman that was handed the keys to the Leafs. Let’s rewind to that day and ask ourselves how in the world, after all of the evidence pointed towards this coach being in over his head, did the new GM deem it appropriate to hand him a new contract?

Simply put, he didn’t. That, I believe, lies with Brendan Shannahan.

I’ve been pointing at Sheldon Keefe for years now. I’ve been pointing at him since he lost to John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets, which was how his first season behind an NHL bench ended and I’ve been asking myself if he’s held himself accountable and if he’s gotten better. The answer is yes, he probably has, but it’s likely too late for that to matter. Coaches have a shelf life and that shelf life was up for Keefe last spring.

The loss to the Florida Panthers was one without excuses. Unlike the loss to the Blue Jackets, where the coach was new, or to the Canadiens, where Carey Price played lights out and eventually lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, or losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning a year later, a battle hardened club that had been through the gauntlet before and won the Stanley Cup, the Panthers were just a team that bullied the Leafs all over the ice. There was no push back, no fight, no life and now, just a few months later, they’re having meetings about how they didn’t stand up for a fellow teammate.

Sorry Coach, that meeting is a few years too late.

The finger now has to be pointed at the head of the snake. Brendan Shannahan has pulled the strings for far too long and is the reason this team has been allowed to be pushed around. His fingers have been in the pie and if you don’t believe me just ask Kyle Dubas, the GM that left the organization because he didn’t have the control that he deemed necessary. If you don’t believe him feel free to ask Brad Treliving, a man that preached a bigger, rougher defence and delivered in free agency by signing….. John Klingberg? That reeks of the Shanaplan, just as the wasted roster spot given to Ryan Reaves does.

Brendan Shannahan, the man that, in between firing Kyle Dubas and hiring Brad Treliving, went to his star players and told them to get comfortable, you’re not going anywhere, is the architect that needs to go. Only then can they move forward as an organization, instead of continuing to squander what was a golden opportunity to truly compete for the Stanley Cup.

Domi will centre the 3rd line and I suspect that Samsonov will start in net, while Knies gets an opportunity at the top of the lineup.

Enjoy the game.