Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Dubas Was Right to Stand Pat at the Deadline

TORONTO, ON-Toronto-DUBAS.The Maple Leafs announced today the promotion of Kyle Dubas to General Manager. Brendan Shanahan was on hand for the announcement..October 30, 2012. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON-Toronto-DUBAS.The Maple Leafs announced today the promotion of Kyle Dubas to General Manager. Brendan Shanahan was on hand for the announcement..October 30, 2012. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The trade deadline has come and gone and the Toronto Maple Leafs did nothing.

Well, “nothing” is a relative term. The Toronto Maple Leafs made several minor moves, such as dealing Michael Hutchinson to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for former Leaf Calle Rosen, and acquiring Vegas’ fifth round pick as part of a three team trade with Vegas and Chicago.

Prior to this, there was the acquisition of Denis Malgin and of course before that the trade for Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford. Aside from that, there were a few minor league deals and not much else.

Of course, some people were up in arms over the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t make any game changing trades on deadline day.

Toronto Maple Leafs at the Trade Deadline

With the rumours floating around that they were “in” on several top four defensemen like Matt Dumba, Josh Manson, Damon Severson, etc, fans were upset that Kyle Dubas didn’t pull the trigger on a deal for any of these guys or any of the defensemen available in general.

On top of this, some fans wanted to see Tyson Barrie shipped out of town amidst the rumours floating around of a potential deal to Vancouver. Problem with this was that Dubas was looking for either a similar NHL defenseman in return or a first round pick and a prospect, and the Canucks couldn’t help in that department. Thus, no deal happened.

Through all of this, I think Dubas standing pat was ultimately the right call for this team in this situation.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted in his “31 Thoughts” piece about a month ago that Dubas was going to let the players determine whether or not they made a move at the deadline. Not literally, but rather through their on-ice performance leading up to the deadline. And how did they respond to that? By going 5-6-1 in February up to the deadline, capped off with one of the most embarrassing efforts in franchise history against their own Zamboni driver and the Carolina Hurricanes. So alas, Dubas elected not to make any trades.

To me, this wasn’t Dubas sitting on his hands and ignoring the Maple Leafs needs, but rather just his way of telling the players that it’s entirely up to them if they want to make the playoffs.

You can argue all you want over this team and gripe about how they aren’t there yet, but on paper, these guys plain and simple have the talent to make the playoffs and, dare I say it, advance past the first round. It’s just a matter of if they want it enough.

Look at that second game against Pittsburgh. You know, where they tightened up for a strong defensive effort and shut out a top five team in the NHL. If they play like that on a nightly basis, there’s no reason they can’t go far in the postseason. So with the Leafs playing games like that with the roster they have as it stands, why would Dubas give up assets and toss them a lifeline if they’re going to respond with efforts like the Carolina game?

Go ahead and yell at Dubas for not acquiring a Josh Manson or a Matt Dumba at the deadline. Neither of those guys ended up getting moved, so maybe the price was too high or those teams simply didn’t want to part with those guys just yet?

And even if he went after a UFA or a depth defenseman in general, say a Sami Vatanen or a Brenden Dillon. Who do you bench in favour of those guys when everybody is healthy? Rielly, Barrie, Muzzin, Holl, Sandin, and Dermott make up the d-core when everybody is healthy. You aren’t sending Sandin back to the AHL, and pieces like Travis Dermott would make more sense to move if you’re looking to acquire a game-changing top four defenseman who’s in the future plans. Not for a guy who’s going to be on your bottom pairing and leave at the end of the year.

Leafs Defense

Sure, having a defenseman would be nice in the wake of Jake Muzzin’s injury, but that’s just pure bad luck. No way anybody could have predicted Muzzin going down with injury.

And in terms of not moving Tyson Barrie, I think a lot of the time Leaf fans forget that the team is right in the thick of the race and not playoff-removed. If you can get a high-value return for Barrie, then sure. Make the move. But why would you trade one of your best healthy defensemen if you’re only going to get a second round pick or something similar back? Just for the purpose of making a trade? Not when playoffs are around the corner.

To reiterate, we all know what this team is capable of when they tighten up defensively and actually show up to play. And the message Dubas was sending his players is clear in my eyes. Something along the lines of “You guys have the talent to make the playoffs as is. If you’re going to show up and give efforts like the Carolina game, then I’m not going to spend on you. Show me you guys are good enough, or bigger changes will likely come in the off-season”.

And so far? It’s looking like it worked. They displayed two much, much better efforts against Tampa Bay and Florida and came away with 4 out of 4 points including a crucial win against the Panthers. Oh yeah, and they played a strong defensive game against an offensively-loaded team in Florida despite missing their two top defensemen.

Sure, the games weren’t picture perfect, but given their recent history on the Florida road trips, it’s hard not to be satisfied in any way given what we’re used to seeing. Bad goaltending hurt them in the first period of the Panthers game, but Andersen figured it out and kept the door shut for the rest of the game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs now head home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night before starting their California road trip next week in San Jose.

The California teams have all struggled mightily this season, as we all know, and the Canucks haven’t been too hot lately either, so this is a huge opportunity to get the ball rolling as we gear towards the playoffs.

Next. Why It Was Best to Keep Barrie. dark

It’s clear these guys are capable of winning when the whole team shows up to play, and we need to see efforts like that every game from here on out.

And who knows? Maybe David Ayres’ feel good moment can serve as a turning point.