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Disappointing Maple Leafs fire coach Babcock

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New York (AFP)

The reeling Toronto Maple Leafs sacked coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday, replacing him with minor league coach Sheldon Keefe.

"Today, we made the decision to relieve Mike Babcock of his coaching duties and named Sheldon Keefe our new head coach," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said. "Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise.

"Mike's commitment and tireless work ethic has put our organization in a better place and we are extremely grateful and appreciative of the foundation he has helped us build here."

Toronto made the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the past three seasons, but failed to make it out of the Eastern Conference first round.

This season the Leafs have a record of nine wins, 10 defeats and four draws and in their last six games had endured a shoot-out defeat followed by five regulation-time losses.

Babcock, who won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and returned to the finals the following season, was hired by Toronto in May 2015.

He reportedly signed an eight-year deal worth $50 million.

Keefe was in his fifth season coaching the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies. He led the club to the best record in the AHL twice and the Calder Cup Championship in 2018.

"At this time, we collectively felt that it was best to make a change to Sheldon Keefe," Shanahan said. "Sheldon's record with the Marlies in terms of development and on-ice success during his time in our organization has compelled us all to feel that he is the right person to take us to the next stage in our evolution."

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