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Maple Leafs fire head coach Mike Babcock

Last Updated Nov 20, 2019 at 10:15 pm PST

TORONTO (SPORTSNET) – The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Mike Babcock, the team announced on Wednesday.

Sheldon Keefe has taken Babcock’s place behind the bench.

“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 in the team’s press release. “Over parts of the last five seasons, Mike has played an integral role in changing the direction of our franchise.”

The news comes on the heels of a six-game losing streak for the Maple Leafs in a season filled with expectations. Toronto currently sits fifth in the Atlantic Division with a 9-10-4 record through 23 games.

“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,” said Shanahan.

Babcock was hired by the Maple Leafs in May 2015, taking over a struggling team and helping usher in a new era for the rebuilding club. Under his guidance, the Maple Leafs went 173-133-45 in 351 regular season games over the course of parts of five seasons, as well as an 8-12 record in three consecutive post-season appearances.

“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.”

Keefe has been at the helm of Toronto’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, for the past four years and has been considered the NHL club’s head coach-in-waiting thanks to his success there. The 39-year-old coached the Marlies to an overall record of 199-89-22-9 and four consecutive playoff berths, twice winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s top regular season team and capturing the team’s first-ever Calder Cup championship in 2018.