With Montgomery gone, Rangers should focus on Keefe
As reported by New York Post writer, Larry Brooks, and various other outlets, Jim Montgomery will be announced as the next coach of the Dallas Stars within the next few days. Montgomery, 48, was one of the top candidates for the Rangers head coach opening but with him off the market it’s time for them to look elsewhere. That “elsewhere” the Rangers should look is up north in Toronto where the Toronto Marlies play. Their head coach, Sheldon Keefe, should now be moved to the top of their list.
Keefe, 37, is a former NHL player. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999 but was forced to end his playing career in 2005 over a knee injury. Keefe may not have had a long and successful NHL career but from the second he became involved in coaching it’s clear he had the midas touch. At every stage of his coaching career the man has succeeded and has become one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game.
Keefe’s first coaching job was with the Pembroke Lumber Kings; a Junior ‘A’ club playing in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL). He had purchased the team in July of 2003 during his playing days. He started out as an associate coach, but Keefe got promoted to head coach and general manager on June 6, 2006 in just his second season with the club. The previous head coach and GM, Kevin Abrams, was promoted to CCHL commissioner.
Keefe had unprecedented success with the Lumber Kings. During his tenure as head coach they won five straight CCHL championships along with the 2011 Royal Bank Cup. Keefe would become the all-time leader in wins and win percentage for the Lumber Kings. He finished his Junior ‘A’ career with a coaching record of 285-95-12.
During the 2011-12 season, Keefe announced he would be leaving Pembroke for the opportunity to coach the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). On December 3rd, 2012 Keefe would be official named head coach of the SSMG and after turning around a Pembroke club into a powerhouse, he would do the same for the Greyhounds.
Keefe would spend two and a half seasons behind the bench of the Greyhounds. In his two full season behind the bench, he went a combined 98-29-9 and earned the Matt Leyden Trophy in 2014-15 as the OHL’s top coach and was named Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Coach of the Year that same season. Although he didn’t win a league title with the Greyhounds (they made it to the second round and west final but were defeated by Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters both years) he established a winning culture and since his tenure the Greyhounds have been an absolute powerhouse in the OHL.
Keefe’s next coaching move would be to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and he has continued his brand of success by going a combined 150-63-15. The Marlies are currently fighting for the Calder Cup in the AHL playoffs where they are set to start their second round series against the Syracuse Crunch tonight at 7 pm. Keefe is seeking his first AHL title.
Why Keefe should be the next Rangers Coach
Keefe has been described as a coach who really knows how to teach the game and knows how to work with young and developing players. He would be the prime choice for the New York Rangers right now as the only place he has yet to test his skills is the NHL level and as a rebuilding team the Rangers could use a coach like him.
Guys like Jon Cooper and Jared Bednar show that NHL coaching experience are not prerequisites to being a successful NHL coach and Keefe would be a great coaching for all the young guys that will be entering the Rangers system in within the next few seasons. He preaches puck possession and fast play with and without the puck. He knows how to work one-on-one with players and he won’t rag on younger players who may make the odd mistake or two.
This rebuilding Rangers team will need a voice in the room that’s both challenging to them but won’t make them fear for their ice time is they make a mistake. They need a guy who sees the way the game is going and coaches his teams to be the best at what they can do. Keefe is that guy. His style of coaching is a huge difference from John Tortorella’s shot blocking defense first approach and Alain Vigneault’s quick strike approach but it is exactly what the Rangers need.
With Mike Babcock firmly entrenched as the Maple Leafs coach for years to come, Keefe deserves every chance to coach at the NHL level somewhere and the Rangers should be the team that gives him that chance.