Belfast Giants to hire skip Adam Keefe as boss in bid to end slump
The Belfast Giants are set to hand team captain Adam Keefe the responsibility of ending the longest trophy drought in the club's history. The long-serving skipper is believed to be the only name in the frame as the club's management search for a new head coach to take over from Derrick Walser, whose two-year spell in charge came to an end when the Giants decided not to renew his contract after failing to land silverware.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that Keefe was immediately sounded out for the job after the decision was made not to offer Walser an extension. The 33-year-old has since been offered the position and negotiations are close to being concluded, with an announcement confirming his appointment expected within the next few days.
Keefe stated that he was considering his future after the Giants lost to the Sheffield Steelers in the Play-off semi-finals, but that now looks to have been sorted out and he is also expected to continue to play while coaching the team.
While from the outside the Canadian may be looked upon as another rookie coach, following on from Walser who was handed his first coaching job by the Giants, the captain has already dipped his toe in the water having been brought on to Walser's staff as assistant two years ago.
Despite that perceived lack of experience, Keefe is expected to be a popular choice among Giants fans.
His combative style made him a favourite almost immediately after his arrival in Belfast in 2011 and he has become part of the fabric of the club in the last six seasons as well as spending his summers in Northern Ireland.
He was appointed captain by Doug Christiansen in 2012 after just one season in Belfast and he later led the Giants to the Elite League title under Paul Adey in 2014.
That was the last trophy success for the club and after finishing second in the league and losing in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup and Play-offs under Walser last season, the challenge for Keefe will be to bring silverware to the SSE Arena.
Along with Director of Hockey Operations Steve Thornton, Ontario-born Keefe will now set about building a squad for next season with the intention of ending a three-season trophy drought, with firepower the main area that needs strengthened.
Already, forwards Mike Forney and James Desmarais have announced that they won't be returning having completed their two-year deals.
Other clubs have already commenced their recruitment for the 2017-18 season, with several teams almost finished.
Goaltender Jackson Whistle and forwards Alex Foster and Steve Saviano are expected to stay with the Giants as they signed on as part of the club's link with Ulster University to combine playing with studying for a Masters degree.
The first person Keefe may tap into for coaching advice is his older brother, Sheldon. He played 125 times in the NHL for Tampa Bay Lightning before retiring in 2005, aged just 25, to focus on coaching.
He is currently in charge of the Toronto Marlies, the top affiliate club of NHL giants the Toronto Maple Leafs.