It’s been a successful year for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his second season with the team, head coach Sheldon Keefe has led the team to its First Division title since turn of the century in 2000. That’s 21 seasons between titles.
How has Keefe become such a successful head coach at such a young age?
Zach Hyman on Sheldon Keefe
Two months ago, The Hockey News published an article about Keefe’s coaching style. In that article, players reported that Keefe had a unique ability to communicate well with his players. In fact, several players noted that communication has been Keefe’s greatest strength as a coach.
Also in the article, Zach Hyman reported that he wasn’t surprised at Keefe’s ability. He played for Keefe when he was with the Toronto Marlies during the 2015-16 season. Hyman specified that “I think his greatest strength is his communication, his ability to talk to players based on who the player is.”
Hyman added, “I think he understands what a player needs and, I guess, how to speak to that person; and, it may be different.”
Alex Kerfoot Enumerates Why He Believes Keefe’s Style Works
In a recent Sportsnet video from May 8, forward Alexander Kerfoot discussed head coach Keefe’s ability to get the most out of his lineup in high pressure scenarios and shared reasons why Keefe’s innovative coaching resonates with Maple Leafs’ players.
Five Reasons Why Players Respond to Keefe’s Coaching
In the video, you can hear Kerfoot lay out five reasons why players want to play for coach Keefe.
Reason #1: Keefe Is a Good Communicator
Kerfoot notes that Keefe “knows how to communicate very well on a personal level and through the team, and the guys respond to him.”
Reason #2: Keefe Is Innovative
Kerfoot notes that “some of the things that he has are pretty innovative.”
Reason #3: Keefe Is Seeking to Improve
Kerfoot notes that Keefe is “always looking to improve his coaching expertise.”
Reason #4: Keefe Focuses on Helping the Team
Kerfoot notes that Keefe is “always trying to find ways to help our team, and I think that that kind of resonates throughout our group.”
Reason #5: Keefe Is a Hard-Worker
Finally, Kerfoot noted that Keefe “obviously works really hard in his craft.”
As Kerfoot Says, The Team Wants to Play for Keefe
Kerfoot wrapped it up by saying that the guys just want to play for Keefe. Kerfoot believes it’s “big” when a team wants to play for the coach, and notes that “We definitely want to play for him.”
Certainly, in the final analysis, the proof is in the pudding. Not only did the Maple Leafs lock up the North Division title on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, but they did it in a completely different style than what fans are used to. Rather than a run-and-gun, big offensive, score more goals than the other team, this group of Maple Leafs’ players is playing a more focused and an all-round better defensive game.
Obviously, that game has resonated with his players. Their record on the season is a strong 35-13-6.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf