Skip to content

Keefe: I'm a far better coach now than when I started in NHL

Rich Graessle / National Hockey League / Getty

Sheldon Keefe believes he's improved at his job in his half-decade as a bench boss at the highest level.

"After five years and six playoff rounds, I'm a far better coach than when I arrived in the NHL," the New Jersey Devils head coach said Tuesday at his introductory press conference.

The Devils confirmed Thursday that they hired Keefe after the Toronto Maple Leafs fired him May 9 following yet another early-round exit. The Boston Bruins vanquished the Maple Leafs on David Pastrnak's overtime winner in Game 7 five days earlier.

Keefe got the Leafs to the second round last spring, but they then fell to eventual Stanley Cup finalists the Florida Panthers in five games.

Toronto went 212-97-40 in the regular season with Keefe at the helm beginning in 2019-20, racking up the fourth-most points in the NHL over that span. The club made the playoffs every season but failed to advance to the second round in all but the one aforementioned campaign.

The Maple Leafs have endured seven opening-round exits in the last eight years and haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1967. The 43-year-old acknowledged Tuesday that the pressure isn't any less significant with his new team.

"Driving in here this morning seeing the statue of Martin Brodeur, you know the expectations are high," Keefe said.

The Devils missed the postseason this spring after reaching the second round in 2022-23. They've made only two playoff appearances in the 12 years since they last reached the Cup Final, which they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

New Jersey won championships in 1995, 2000, and 2003. Brodeur backstopped the Devils to each of those triumphs. The Colorado Avalanche defeated them for the Cup over seven games in 2001, and the New York Rangers ousted them in seven in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

Keefe inherits a talented Devils squad that underachieved this season amid injuries to Jack Hughes and Dougie Hamilton. New Jersey fired Lindy Ruff as head coach on March 4, replacing him with associate coach Travis Green for the rest of the campaign.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox