Rosie DiManno: ‘We’re ready,’ Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe says of Game 7

When Sheldon Keefe reaches into his NHL coach’s memory bank, the remembrances of things past aren’t very sweet.

Of course, No. 39 in the Toronto bench boss annals, from the legendary to the hacks, doesn’t share the entire spectrum of Maple Leafs discontent, mortification even on occasion. No stench clings to him of the back-to-back botches against Boston when the Bruins were in the team’s elimination crosshairs. He doesn’t wear those shrouds.

But last spring and the pandemic bubble post-season the summer before are epitaphs on his resumé, bordered in black: Here lie the Leafs, predeceased by a half-century-plus of futility and folly.

How much blame does a coach carry for a team’s failure? The performance metrics are difficult to decipher. We know that Mike Babcock stirred the stress and then absolved himself of fault. Keefe doesn’t seem the type to inject shots of dread into his players, although that Leaf documentary last year, “All or Nothing,” provided an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes peek, revealing an unexpectedly profane, if mostly harmless, dimension.

Coaches don’t score goals and they can’t make saves. They might carry the can if a team comes out of the gate woefully unprepared, as was the case in several games against Montreal a year ago, and Keefe did say that was on him, the coaching staff, although not explaining specifically the whereof. It was probably just a veneer mea culpa. It was inexplicable, really, how the Leafs managed…

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