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The next Maple Leafs coach must make more of the star power in times of crisis

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The new coach of the Maple Leafs, whoever that is, seems to have only one priority.

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Grab a talented hockey team by the collar and take it a round, or two, or three, deeper into the playoffs than its two immediate predecessors.

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But the remaining eight months of the season require a degree in human resource management, with equal parts tough love and parental supervision.

This has to do with the four previous selections in the first round in the center of a club that failed to work together at the time of the crisis. Six times this group has lost a decisive match in a series that could have led to bigger things.

At $50 million, Mike Babcock was a good coach but a bad babysitter. He lost his job largely because, as a stubborn old-schooler, he couldn’t connect with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly.

The now-fired Sheldon Keefe gave that group a longer leash as part of former general manager Kyle Dubas’ hope that they would mature both on and off the ice.

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It worked in the regular season, with Keefe overseeing three 100-plus point campaigns, unprecedented in team history, and setting himself the second-best winning percentage among the top 80 coaches in NHL history.

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It earned Matthews a trophy and an all-star title for himself and Marner, while Marner and Nylander came knocking to become the club’s first 100-point wingers.

But the payoff never came in the playoffs for reasons ranging from ill-timed injuries to perceived indifference in buying into hockey’s postseason sacrifices. The public perception, fair or not, is that the stars are too spoiled and not accountable enough.

Certainly, fewer than 60 playoff games on each of their hockey cards at this stage of their careers doesn’t flatter anyone. Let’s see if the new bank boss can get more out of the core when it counts.

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Top five coaches in Leafs history by points percentage

Coach games wins loses OTL/T points pctg. Playoff record

Sheldon Keefe 349 212 97 40 .665 16-21

Pat Quinn 574 300 196 78 .588 41-39

Dick Irvin 426 215 152 59 .574 33-32-1

Punch Imlach 770 370 275 125 .563 44-48

Mike Babcock 351 173 133 45 .557 8-12

Top 10 NHL winning percentage by active coaches

Win coaching games%

Rod Brind’Amour 452 .615

Sheldon Keefe* 349,607

Jon Cooper 879,597

Bruce Cassidy 673 .577

Jarded Bednar 618 .552

Peter Laviolette 1,512,534

Mike Sullivan 835 .533

Peter DeBoer 1,179,519

Lindy ruff 1.774 .487

John Tortorella 1,547,480

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