With Babcock gone, is the target now on the players, or Dubas?
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will speak for the first time since head coach Mike Babcock was relieved of his coaching duties alongside team president Brendan Shanahan today at 12:30pm ET/9:30am PT in Arizona.
Watch the availability LIVE on on Leafs Lunch on TSN4 and TSN Direct from Gala River Arena in Glendale.
Shanahan addressed the media Wednesday after announcing the decision to replace Babcock with Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe.
“We know how competitive the league is and we know how difficult it is, each and every night. So, when you think that you know what the right decision is, you have to act on it,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “I think that waiting at this point would have just been the wrong thing, so that's why I flew in today and [Dubas] and I had the conversation with Mike.”
Babcock was fired with the Leafs in the midst of a six-game winless streak, having failed to pick up a point in each of their past five games. Toronto sits at 9-10-4 on the season and Babcock departs the Leafs with a 173-133-45 record behind the bench with the team.
Shanahan said that both he and Dubas felt that a coaching change was necessary for the team.
“Seeing as I had been the one that hired Mike I thought that it was very important for me to get on a plane this morning and fly here and face Mike and be with Kyle to tell him myself that we had made a decision together that we thought was in the best interest of the club,” Shanahan said. “It really just came down to the last couple of weeks and it got to the point where [Dubas and I] spoke in the last 48 hours and I just felt that it was something that needed to be done. Kyle felt the same way.”
Keefe was in his fifth season with the Marlies before promoted to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. He had a 199-89-31 record behind the bench with the AHL club, winning the league championship in 2018.
The Maple Leafs will play their first game under Keefe later on Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes. They enter the contest 10th in the Eastern Conference, but Shanahan said management still believes in the team's roster to turn the season around.
“I think that’s the magic question,” Shanahan said of dissecting how the Leafs can get back on track. “I think that there are key elements to our game and some attention to detail that has been missing often this year. We’re mistake-prone on defence, and even the explosive offence our team was known for has been missing for a while now. So there's a lot of work for Sheldon to do and there's a lot of work for the players to do and they understand that. But we really believe in them.
"We believe in the players that we have here. We believe in Sheldon, obviously, in making this decision. And so we're still optimistic.”
Dubas is in his second season as general manager of the Maple Leafs, having replaced Lou Lamoriello in 2018.