Tortorella Says Maple Leafs Coach’s Criticism “Beyond Belief”


John Tortorella defended Sheldon Keefe a day after the Columbus Blue Jackets knocked out the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Blue Jackets coach responded to criticism leveled at the Maple Leafs coach for the decisions made in the top five series, which Columbus won with a 3-0 victory in Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday. The Blue Jackets qualified to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first game is in Toronto, the hub city of the East, on Tuesday (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).The Maple Leafs have not won a playoff series since a seven-game victory over the Ottawa Senators in the 2004 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

“I just can’t forget the people who tore Sheldon Keefe and his staff apart when it comes to the work he did with the Maple Leaf team,” Tortorella said of Keefe, who played most of his 125 NHL games for the Lightning from 2000 to 2003 with Tortorella as a coach. “They did a great job with this team. Now that’s after the show and all that, and some of the things that I read, some of the things that I watched last night, I mean, half of the pundits in this town think they know the game, but they really don’t know it. [upsets me] for another coach in this league. ”

Keefe was hired to replace Mike Babcock on Nov. 20 after a 9-10-4 start and was 27-15-5 in 47 games. He guided Toronto from the American Hockey League to the Calder Cup in 2018.

“And I know it’s Toronto, a great city, a great hockey city, I love being here,” Tortorella said. “But some of the things he’s been criticized for are incredible to me. And it just shows that people have no idea what’s going on in this game. So I just want to support him, I’m glad we won, but I just want to support him, he and his team did. a great job with this hockey club. ”

The Maple Leafs were the eighth seed in the East after going 36-25-9 (.579 percentage points). They are part of eight teams (Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets) eliminated from qualifying with a 12.5% ​​chance of winning. No. 1 in the 2020 NHL Draft. in the second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery Monday (6 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSN, SN, TVAS).

Alexis Lafrenière, a Rimouski left winger of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is the expected first pick.


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