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Boudreau believes security will help Keefe with Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs Sheldon Keefe Sheldon Keefe - The Canadian Press

Bruce Boudreau knows a thing or two about the highs and lows of being a head coach in the National Hockey League.

Boudreau, 68, coached parts of 16 seasons in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, and Vancouver Canucks.

During this time, he won the Jack Adams Award in 2008 with the Capitals and led his teams to eight 100-point seasons, including the Presidents’ Trophy with Washington in 2010.

He also knows how important it is to have the security of a contract in order to successfully do the job.

During his career, Boudreau twice entered the last year of his contract without an extension, and both times he was fired before that season was finished.

That’s why he thought it was important for Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe to sign a new a two-year extension done with the club on Wednesday.

“[Hall of Fame head coach] Roger Neilson once told me that your contract is your only protection for coaches,” Boudreau told TSN1050’s First Up on Friday. “When I signed with the Canucks, I made them give me a two-year deal because I told them if I’m coming in halfway through the year and I only have the one year, [the players are] going to think I’m like a supply teacher and not buy in.

"If they’re not at least going to give you a one-year extension so you don’t have to go into your final year, you know the first time the waters get rough they’re probably going to say goodbye to you."

Keefe is entering his fifth season as the Maple Leafs head coach and helped lead them past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last season. During his run as head coach, the 42-year-old has a 166-71-30 record, led the Leafs to two 100-point seasons, and won the all-Canadian division during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season.

The Maple Leafs also had a major shakeup in their front office after general manager Kyle Dubas was let go in May and replaced by Brad Treliving. 

Keefe had worked with Dubas not only with the Maple Leafs, but with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies and the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

With a brand-new boss and only one-year left on his deal, there were questions during the off-season about Keefe’s security with the team.

But Keefe’s talents as a head coach were recognized by his new general manager.

"I think Treliving did a good job in getting Keefe signed and Keefe deserved [the contract]," said Boudreau. "If you look at his four-year record, it's hard coaching a good team and keep the players motivated [in the regular season]. To get as many as they have the past four years is quite good."

Moving forward, Keefe and his staff will continue to prepare for the upcoming season. Though the off-season is generally used for recovering from the year before, Boudreau said a coach doesn’t get much time to fully disconnect.

“You never, as a coach [fully] remove yourself away from the game,” said Boudreau. “All of August, you get your preparation ready for September. You get your assistant coaches a solid three weeks before the team and you’d have meetings starting today, getting everyone’s assignments in, and video staff would be starting to be prepared.

“You want to be so prepared that [when the] players arrive, [they] know that you’re on the ball, prepared, and ready to go.”