The Toronto Maple Leafs have been a bit of a soap opera since their second-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but who will lead the team into next season?
On one hand, they ended their nearly 20-year series-win drought. On the other hand, they followed that up by nearly getting swept.
As soon as it appeared they were over the hump and had figured things out, no more than a couple of weeks later it looked like that may not be the case.
In the near month since the Maple Leafs’ exit from the playoffs, they have since moved on from Kyle Dubas which was its own saga, and hired Brad Treliving as their new General Manager.
This shake-up in the front office has led to plenty of speculation that at least one more significant change could be looming.
What Treliving and his new staff are needing to dial in right now is what exactly is the reason this version of the Maple Leafs just cannot make a playoff run: the coach or the players?
Off the cusp, it is hard to believe that on a team with a handful of certified superstars, the problem is the superstars themselves.
Granted, there are always egos that can lead to team drama that ultimately holds a team back. But that does not seem to be the case with this roster.
If not the players, is the issue Head Coach Sheldon Keefe? Again, off the cusp, it does not appear that there is anything glaring Keefe has specifically done wrong over the last 4 years and he has seemingly not lost the locker room.
But if Treliving determines he wants to bring in a new voice by way of letting Keefe go and making a new Head Coach hire, there are a few names that would not be surprising to see in the rumors. Here are a few:
Not sure this is exactly one that the Maple Leafs fans would be on board with considering his exit from Calgary this season, but Sutter is Treliving’s most recent Head Coach at the Flames, where they spent three years working together.
Potentially a little bit of recency bias could entice Treliving to pick up the phone if he deems it necessary to have an old-fashioned coach like Sutter get these young Maple Leafs players on the right track.
Sutter is a hockey lifer as part of a hockey-lifer family. He played over 400 NHL games and has coached another 1,478. Add in 2 Stanley Cups as the Kings’ head coach in 2012 and 2014, as well as a Jack Adams award in 2022 and all of a sudden his appeal looks a little better for a team needing to get over the hump.
Dallas Eakins began his coaching career in 2006 as assistant coach for the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs.
In 2009, he was promoted to Head Coach where he found success in four season at the helm.
Led by Eakins, the Marlies went to the Calder Cup finals in 2012 and reached the semifinals in 2013.
He has since spent stints between the NHL and AHL, most recently as the Anaheim Ducks head coach from 2019 until this past 2022/2023 season.
Things did not go great in Anaheim, but it is hardly the fault of Eakins who was a bit of a lame-duck coach during a team’s full rebuild.
This is a guy who is no stranger to the Maple Leafs organization and could be a natural fit considering his experience coaching younger players at a high level.
There are already rumors that Peter Laviolette is all but a formality for the New York Rangers Head Coaching vacancy, however nothing has been finalized just yet.
Maybe the reason Laviolette to the Rangers is not finalized is because there is mutual interest between he and the Maple Leafs organization.
Laviolette is now a coaching free agent after three seasons in Washington. He is no stranger to big markets as he has coached in New York (Islanders), Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. with stints also in smaller, but raucous hockey markets in Nashville and Carolina where he won a Stanley Cup.
Laviolette-coached teams have made the playoffs in 13 out of 18 seasons and he is one of just 10 NHL head coaches in history with 700+ wins. If Treliving does decide to make a Head Coaching change, Laviolette would be a great catch.
There is a growing consensus that it is only a matter of time before Steve Ott is promoted to a Head Coaching role in the NHL.
After his playing career, he jumped on the Blues’ staff as assistant coach where he was behind the bench with Craig Berube and Mike Van Ryn when St. Louis won the Stanley Cup.
Ott’s strong reputation as a coach has grown over the years due to his power play consistently ranking high in the league, as well as rave reviews from peers, management, and most importantly, players.
With 848 games played in the NHL, now 6 years behind the bench, and Stanley Cups between in his young coaching career, Ott more than has the credibility and pedigree to get the respect and attention of this young, talented Maple Leafs team.
Hiring a first-time NHL Head Coach to Toronto would be extremely bold. But it could be a great move.