When the plan isn’t working, the logical next step is to change course. In Toronto, the sky is apparently falling when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their 2-4-1 start and changing course could mean a couple of things. After a horrid opening to the 2021-22 season where the best players on the team haven’t shown up and there are serious questions about whether or not this roster as constructed has what it takes to get into and through the playoffs, fans, insiders, and likely the players wondering what comes next.
According to NHL insider and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, the Maple Leafs have three options. During a spot on the FAN Morning Show, Seravalli went into detail about what he believes those three options are.
Fire Coach Sheldon Keefe
The first option would be to do what a lot of professional sports teams do when things are going poorly — fire the coach. The argument is often that the bench boss has lost the room or that the players need a different voice. While those things could be possible, Seravalli says he doesn’t see the Leafs firing their head coach.
This isn’t just because there are mixed emotions about where the fault should lay with this team, but because the Maple Leafs recently just showed their faith in the coach by giving him an extension. Seravalli says, “I just don’t see it.” He added, “Sheldon Keefe just got an extension and we just talked about the big three not holding up their end of the bargain. And it’s not on him.”
For as much as changing the coach might actually make a difference, many don’t believe Keefe is the problem. It’s a lack of big-time players stepping up when they’re needed most.
Make a Massive Trade
If this is on the players, the second option for the Leafs is making a trade that will shake up the team. Seravalli contends that if a trade is made, he believes the natural candidate to be shipped out is Mitch Marner. Calling him a highly-skilled player that would undoubtedly fetch a strong return, Seravalli notes, “He has value. Talented player. Tough playoff runs. Not doing it this year. Huge salary cap hit. All those things come together.” That said, the NHL insider admits, “I don’t see the Leafs being at that point.”
The team (specifically GM Kyle Dubas) has been hesitant to pull the trigger on a trade in the past. There have been other times this team has gone through adversity and he’s not made a move. Only seven games into the season and with lots of time left to turn things around, there’s little reason to believe this is the do-or-die moment for Dubas.
Triple Down on This Roster
The third option is to do what Seravalli believes the team is doing and will continue to do — show faith in the roster. The plan seems to be to push forward hoping the likes of Auston Matthews, Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell can lead this team. If they can get it together, there’s confidence a group this talented can go on a run.
This might be the time, above all others, to show confidence in the group. Demonstrating that this the Leafs are, in fact, taking this approach, even after another spirit-crushing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and former Maple Leafs’ goaltender Frederik Andersen, Keefe said, “I think we leave here a better team… I think there’s a lot of good things that our team did here but also in the lessons that we’ll take away that’ll make us a better team.” Talk about trying to find the silver lining in a bad situation.
The Maple Leafs do have options. If they run with the third one, it will be intriguing to see how long they can commit to that decision if the team continues to struggle.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”