Maple Leafs sack Mike Babcock amid struggles

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The Toronto Maple Leafs axed Mike Babcock following Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, which left the team at 9-10-4 in 2019.
The Toronto Maple Leafs axed Mike Babcock following Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, which left the team at 9-10-4 in 2019.

The Toronto Maple Leafs sacked head coach Mike Babcock, the NHL franchise announced on Wednesday.

Toronto axed Babcock with the Maple Leafs struggling for form this season, and promoted Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe.

The Maple Leafs (9-10-4) decided to make a change amid a six-game winless streak following Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

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"Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement.

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

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

Babcock arrived in Toronto amid much hype in 2015, having led the Detroit Red Wings to Stanley Cup glory seven years earlier.

However, Babcock – who reportedly became the highest-paid coach in NHL history at the time of his arrival – was unable to deliver success.

The Maple Leafs made three consecutive playoff appearances heading into 2019-20, however, Toronto never advanced past the first round.

"I'm disappointed," Babcock said in a statement to TSN. "We didn't have the start to the year we wanted and that's on me. I want to thank the fans. I want to thank the media. I want to thank the city.

"It was spectacular. I loved every second of it. And I wish the new group nothing but success. Morgan Rielly has been here the whole time. I can't thank him enough. And all the players I got an opportunity to coach, it's been fantastic and I wish them nothing but success."

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