The Toronto Maple Leafs made a major coaching change in the midst of the 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season and although there has been an insane amount of fallout from that decision the change has been largely received as a positive one. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made the move to fire long time NHL head coach Mike Babcock as the Maple Leafs bench boss and made the move to install Sheldon Keefe as the new coach of the Maple Leafs.
Keefe was always considered to be Dubas' guy and there were reports going as far back as the summer that suggested Dubas had tried to make the change happen during the offseason. All this to say that the success, or lack thereof, of Keefe behind the Maple Leafs bench will inexorably be tied to Dubas himself now moving forward but so far things are looking pretty good for the pair thus far. The Maple Leafs players have clearly responded in a positive way to Keefe for the most part, but it is fair to say that the new system implemented by Sheldon Keefe has not positively impacted every player on the roster.
One player who surprisingly has struggled under the leadership of Keefe has been veteran center Frederik Gauthier, a player that was leaned on heavily by the aforementioned Mike Babcock in defensive situations. Gauthier has seen his ice time take a significant hit, dropping by roughly two minutes per night on average, and has even been made to sit on the sidelines a few times under Keefe. To make matters worse for Gauthier it sounds like the new head coach expects him to take even more of a backseat moving forward.
“The biggest thing, really, and I told Fred, is we feel pretty comfortable with who he is and what’s done in the organization,” Keefe explained as per The Athletic. “We’re in a situation where we have some other guys that we’d like to give some opportunities and see what they can bring and see what they can add to the mix. I liked how Fred’s played, he’s done well, but I’m trying to find the right mix for our team — we’ve gotta try some different things.
“So, in the interim, he’s going to have to take a step back a little bit.”
Although there may be a number of other factors at play here the change behind the bench has not been good for every Maple Leaf thus far, and unfortunately for Gauthier he may be the most glaring example of that thus far.