TORONTO – John Tortorella wants a long and successful coaching career for Sheldon Keefe, but he doesn’t want Keefe’s success to start right away.
“Playing for him as a young man was tough,” said Keefe, who was 20 his first season on Tortorella. “It made it hard to win your way as a young player, and I got caught up in that, but certainly when I made the transition from playing to being a coach and started thinking about what I was doing. ‘liked and how I was going to put. together a program, this is when you really learn to respect John’s process of creating a team concept. ”
Keefe played for Tortorella in three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, from 2001 to 2003. The 39-year-old said the experience played an important role in shaping his philosophy and vision as a coach.
“Especially when I think about it – I couldn’t play on that Stanley Cup Championship team in Tampa in 2004 – but I was there throughout the process of growing this team year over year.” , eventually to the point where it was too good for me to play, ”Keefe said on July 16. “That process and seeing how he put it all together to finally make him a champion, frankly, has been the foundation of my coaching since I started with Pembroke at the Junior A level.”
Video: Hockey is back: Columbus vs Toronto kicks off August 1
The Maple Leafs are the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference qualifiers, and the Blue Jackets are the ninth seed. They will face off in one of four best-of-5 series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the eastern central city. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the loser will have a chance to be the first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, to be held on August 10. .
Keefe is trying to take Toronto from a squad of elite young talent to one that is constantly fighting for the Stanley Cup.
It’s a situation like the one Tortorella, now 62, faced when he replaced Steve Ludzik as Tampa Bay coach 39 games in the 2000-01 season.
Keefe was the same age as forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards, who were integral to the Lightning’s Stanley Cup championship team. He’s looking to help the Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews, 22, Mitchell Marner, 23 and William Nylander, 24 years old, each maximizes their abilities as Tortorella did with Lecavalier and Richards.
“I remember the way John handled the young players and the elite young players,” Keefe said. “… John was instrumental in shaping their careers and their success with him.
When Keefe was promoted from Toronto from the American Hockey League to replace Mike Babcock as coach of the Maple Leafs on November 20, 2019, his former coach was one of the people who contacted him.
“I got a great grade from John when I got this job and got promoted to the Leafs, and I’m very grateful for that,” Keefe said. “I have learned a lot from John and have had the chance to reconnect over the past few years. ”
Although Keefe didn’t have a long playing career in the NHL, Tortorella said he noticed how hard he had competed.
“I have tremendous respect for this guy,” said Tortorella. “He’s one of the most competitive players I’ve coached. I haven’t coached him a lot of games. But when he played, he knew a way, and that was to play hard. ”
Now Keefe, who has 27 wins as a coach in the NHL and entering his first league playoff experience, has said he intends to show respect for Tortorella, 14th in history. of the NHL with 655 wins, by the way he will prepare the Maple Leafs to compete. .
” I’m ready. The only thing about Torts is that he’s an ultimate contender, and I’d like to believe I’m a contender at the same time, ”Keefe said. “The best way to show respect is to make sure you’re ready to compete. That will be all you will hear from me regarding John and our past. I’m just going to focus on preparing our team. to compete is the best way to show someone respect. ”