Toronto, which came into 2019-20 with Stanley Cup aspirations, lost its sixth consecutive game Tuesday night in Vegas, falling to 9-10-4 on the season.
Toronto was a team in transition when Babcock arrived, and he famously promised "pain" as the Leafs worked their way back into a competitive team.
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Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan announced today that Mike Babcock has been relieved of his coaching duties and Sheldon Keefe has been named the Club's new head coach.
Sheldon Keefe, head coach of the Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, will step into the head-coaching role on an interim basis. After a while, the poor on-ice performances were becoming unacceptable. William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Tyson Barrie are also viewed as cornerstone players that haven't lived up to expectations this year.
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After signing the richest coaching contract in National Hockey League history at US$50 million over eight years, Babcock got Toronto to the playoffs the last three seasons, but was unable to advance beyond the first round. The Leafs will have to pay out the final half of that contract, but it's obviously no problem for the deep-pocketed ownership group.
Babcock, with the addition of younger stars like Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, brought the Leafs back to the playoffs with his second season behind the bench. Toronto made the playoffs each of the next two years under Babcock, falling in Game 7 of the first round both times to the Boston Bruins. They are now two points out of a playoff spot.
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But Babcock knew that he would be joining an intense market where coaches are prone to constant backlash and criticism, from fans and the media. Somebody will certainly give him a gig before long.