Toronto Maple Leafs sticking with Dubas and Keefe, is it the right move?

toronto maple leafs
May 14, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs players react after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not making any knee-jerk reactions after their sixth straight first-round exit. Team President Brendan Shanahan on Tuesday said that both GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe will both be returning.

“We’re not going to make any excuses,” Shanahan explained. “I thought our players battled hard, I thought that they played well, and they lost to a great hockey team. As players, management and ownership, we share in everybody’s frustration in not getting the job done.

“Certainly, as we look forward to next year, there’s always going to be new faces. That being said, we will not be making changes just simply for the sake of saying we made changes.”

Maple Leafs sticking with Dubas and Keefe

Despite posting a franchise-record 115 points in the regular season the Toronto Maple Leafs fell in 7 games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Once again, Toronto held a series lead (3-2) but failed to close out an opponent.

Dubas has been the Leafs’ general manager for four seasons and is widely considered one of the brightest young minds in the game.

Keefe has been coaching the Maple Leafs for 2 1/2 seasons which includes a first place finish in the North Division last season. This season he helped guide them to a 54-21-7 record and a second place finish.

“I think that Kyle built a very good hockey team,” Shanahan said. “I think he made excellent adjustments along the way, and I think Sheldon is an excellent coach. As we look forward to next year, and getting to work towards next year, I think it’s important to state that I see both of them as being extremely important in getting us to the next level, so that when we do approach next year, and we do come back, that we are ready to take that next step.

“As Kyle said to the players today, the work for next year begins right now. And I look forward to getting to work with Kyle and Sheldon for next season.”

Toronto last won a playoff series in the 2003-04 season beating the Ottawa Senators in 7 games.

Is this the right move?

toronto maple leafs
May 20, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe (center) during the third period of game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the season, I said that another first round ouster would likely mean the end for GM Kyle Dubas.

After the Game 7 loss to Tampa, Darren Dreger of TSN took to Twitter immediately following the Leafs loss to say otherwise.

“There will changes to the Maple Leafs roster based on salary cap and free agency, but, I don’t foresee drastic changes or sense that the coach or GM are in trouble,” Dreger wrote. “Toronto made strides this season and faced a great opponent in a entertaining 7 game series.”

Elliotte Friedman was on Hockey Central and echoed similar sentiments.

“I don’t think this team needs massive changes on or off the ice,” he said. “I think there needs to be some tweaks. But if you are looking at this organization and saying ‘we have to fire everybody’ then I think you are making a big mistake.”

So is this the right move? I do commend the Leafs for not overreacting and believing in their GM and coach. However, they need to change the dynamic of this lineup which will be tough to do.

A look at the Maple Leafs salary cap situation for the 2022-23 season indicates that they will have around 58% of their salary cap dedicated to five players.

John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly will account for $48 million in cap space next season. The Leafs will need to start considering moving one of their top players in order to change the dynamic of the team.

Matthews is going nowhere, and no one will be looking to trade for Tavares. Does that mean Marner or Nylander go to free up space?

Toronto has around $7M in cap space and need to decide on goalie Jack Campbell. They also need to add another two defensemen and a forward.