Steve Dangle’s open letter to new Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joins Lead Off to discuss why he believes Sheldon Keefe is ready to take on this challenge head on, because he had the chance to leave before, but wanted to coach this team under this GM

Dear Sheldon,

How’s it going? Quiet week?

You’re the new head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pretty ridiculous, eh? You’ll notice a few differences between the NHL and the AHL right away.

First of all, none of the reporters had to Google what building you play in. It’s Coca Cola Coliseum now folks, not Ricoh. Second, the plane’s a lot nicer than the bus.

Heck, what am I telling you for? You’ve lived it! You played 133 AHL games and another 125 in the NHL. I’m sure players respect that you’ve lived the grind and ascension from the minors to the big leagues.

Speaking of which, don’t you pretty much know almost all of these guys on the Leafs? I count 13 players on the current roster who you’ve coached, and almost all of them won a Calder Cup with you on the Marlies. That reminds me – did you bring Pierre Engvall’s phone charger to Arizona? He forgot to pack it.

You don’t need advice or a stupid open letter from some YouTuber. You’ve coached most of these guys and even won a championship with these guys.

You don’t need some warning about Kyle Dubas’ methods and I’m sure you’ll ignore any tweet about him not being a “hockey guy.” Between the OHL, AHL, and now NHL, you’ve worked with him for nearly a decade. You know your matching jewellery from the Calder Cup championship suggests he might actually know a thing or two.

What you do need to do is motivate this group. Get them disciplined. Get them paying attention to detail.

Maybe it’s the tough schedule. Maybe it’s all the turnover. Maybe it’s the injuries. Somehow, I don’t think any of those things explain what this team is going through.

This is an extremely talented group and you’ll have an armada of offensive weapons at your disposal. Likewise, the other teams are going to have better weapons, too. It’s Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak. It’s Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov. It’s…Jean-Gabriel Pageau, for some reason. It’s a bit tougher than “Alright boys, I wanna see a tight defensive game out there, we’re taking on Ben Street tonight.”

The problem is, the other guys’ weapons have been torching the Leafs’ weapons on a nightly basis. The defence is unacceptable. The effort is embarrassing. The results match.

Whatever magic formula you and Kyle have concocted over the years, whatever that perfect combination of civil debate and neck-vein screaming you guys have figured out behind closed doors together that has found you success — it’s time to bring that to the big leagues.

While I have your attention, I have a few requests:

• Don’t lock Justin Holl in a broom closet for a calendar year. Turns out he’s not bad.

• Please actually play Jason Spezza. He’s scoring at over half a point per game.

• Show Tyson Barrie his HockeyDB page. It’ll blow his mind.

• Have you ever killed penalties? Are your skates sharp? Talk to Dave.

• What if you just like…stole Josh Leivo?

• If you see that a defence pair stinks for a quarter of the season, maybe try…literally anything different.

• If Kyle trades for a Stanley Cup-winning defender with a sweet contract, don’t complain about which way he shoots.

• Find a way to work Rich Clune’s Instagram into every video session.

• Did you bring Rasmus Sandin in your luggage and why is the answer no?

A lot of coaches get their first crack at the NHL with a bad team that has bad players. I don’t think that’s what you’re getting and I don’t think you do, either. Motivate these guys, help them realize their potential, and you might just bring an even bigger cup to this city.

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