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TORTS COMES TO THE DEFENSE OF KEEFE AMID HARSH CRITICISM FOLLOWING PLAY IN ROUND LOSS

Less than 24 hours after heartbreak set in once again for Leafs Nation, having lost their best-of-five qualifying round series to the defensively sound Columbus Blue Jackets and veteran bench boss John Tortorella, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe and company have come under fire all over social media for failing to arrive at the dance once again.

Listen, there's no denying that Sheldon Keefe did an amicable job in turning a potentially disastrous season that saw Leafs GM Kyle Dubas terminate the contract of Mike Babcock, the highest paid coach in NHL history, following a 9-10-4 start. Keefe coached the team to an 81-point (102 point pace) season prior to the pause. There's just no good reason to spoil the party for Keefe and his club, who are already totally and utterly disappointed after failing to come up with an answer to the Blue Jackets' ability to clog up the middle of the ice and limit the Leafs' scoring chances. Especially given the fact that Keefe and Dubas didn't have much more than half of a season to attempt to execute their game plan.



The Buds do have one unlikely upstander who has stepped in to try and curb the criticism that the young coach and GM are receiving. That upstander is none other than the opposing coach of their qualifying round series against the Blue Jackets, the Jack Adams finalist himself, John Tortorella.

"I just can't get over people ripping Sheldon Keefe and his staff, as far as the job he's done with the Maple Leafs team," Tortorella commented. "They have done a terrific job with that team. This was after the series and all that...some of the things I read, some of the things I watched last night...half the pundits in this city think they know the game, but they really don't."

Tortorella may be a lot of things, including somewhat of a hot-headed hardass in his own right, but one thing is obvious - he does his homework on the opposition. He does his due diligence and one thing he discovered about Sheldon Keefe and the Maple Leafs is they are no easy out. What Keefe has done with this team in a little over half of a season is impressive, and you can count Torts among the impressed.

"It just pisses me off for a fellow coach in this league, and I know it's Toronto, a great city, great hockey town, love being here. But, some of the things he's criticized for are beyond belief, and it just shows that people have no clue what's going on in this game. I just want to support him. I'm glad we won, but I want to support him and his staff have done a terrific job with that hockey club."

Tortorella and his Blue Jackets now focus on the next task, which is finding a way to bury the very tough Tampa Bay Lightning for the second consecutive year, while the Leafs await the results of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Monday night before they begin drafting up their plans for the 2020-21 season.

Kudos to Torts on offering his support to a rival coach and speaking out against undue criticism following a very tough series - the only one in the qualifying round to have gone the distance.

MIKE ARMENTI
AUGUST 10, 2020  (14H57)
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