How Long Do the Toronto Maple Leafs Stick With Kyle Dubas?

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: General manager Kyle Dubas of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: General manager Kyle Dubas of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Whenever a player is traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs they always talk about coming to play in the biggest market in hockey.

Players aren’t the only ones who get stuck in the glare. Head coaches and General Managers are no different. Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas isn’t immune from the pressure because he is in the upper bowl of the Scotiabank Arena in a suit.

When the Leafs crashed out of the playoffs every eye turned on the players, then coaches and finally on Dubas and President Brendan Shanahan.

Arguably, the “Shanaplan” has actually gone (mostly) to plan. The Toronto Maple Leafs are undoubtedly a better team than when Shanahan took over. He stabilized the locker room with former GM Lou Lamoriello before transitioning, as was always intended, to the younger Kyle Dubas.

The Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager

Dubas started off rocky. The 35-year-old fought against the established norms of the league by building a team off of finesse, skill and speed, size be damned. Even if the NHL is trending in that direction it wasn’t ready for such an abrupt change. As if in direct rebuke of Dubas, the St Louis Blues won the cup that year with an unglamourous, gritty, punishing team.

Instead of seeing the Blues victory as a sign, Dubas doubled down in the following season and Toronto once again crashed out of the playoffs.

Fast forward to the 2021 shortened season and the Toronto Maple Leafs team was completely revamped by Dubas. The team that Kyle Dubas sent out on the ice for opening night had skill and speed combined with more defensive acumen and grit. Yet a portion of the Toronto Maple Leafs faithful still wish to see Kyle Dubas gone.

That would be a mistake, plain and simple. Especially after this season. The real reason the Toronto Maple Leafs lost their opening playoff round was a couple of cm difference in two or three OT shots. Both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews came exceedingly close on a few occasions to winning it in Game 5 and Game 6 in the extra period. The Leafs didn’t get the bounces they needed, and they ran into Carey Price in the best form he’s been in for years.

Even if you don’t believe that, here is why the Toronto Maple Leafs have to stick with Kyle Dubas:

First, his player management. He is a popular figure with players and staff alike – think when Ilya Mikheyev suffered artery and tendon damage in his hand against the New Jersey Devils in 2019. It was Mikheyev’s first season, his English was limited and straight away Dubas stayed with him in hospital.

Another example comes when John Tavares suffered his gruesome on-ice injury. Not only was Dubas’ concerned look serious and genuine, he was out of his box and down into the depths of the Scotiabank Arena in a flash. He obviously cares about his players.

For the cold-hearted who don’t care about that here are the other facts. Everyone wanted the team to become tougher to play against, to add grit, physicality and quality depth.

The Toronto Maple Leafs team at the start of the 2021 playoffs had all of that. Dubas had already pulled off a great trade for Jack Campbell in February 2020 and added more security behind the recovering Frederik Andersen with David Rittich.

There was the defensive addition of TJ Brodie – who was one of Toronto’s best defenders all season – and the grit and toughness that Zach Bogosian, who far exceeded everyone’s expectations, brought. Dubas went back for more by acquiring Ben Hutton on deadline day even if Sheldon Keefe curiously never dressed him.

For those calling out for grit not only was Bogosian brought in but so was Wayne Simmonds, who recently signed an extension, and Nick Foligno at the deadline. If you thought the Leafs were too easy to play against then put a check by the names of Brodie, Bogosian, Foligno and Riley Nash.

Finally one of the most common criticisms against the Leafs with such a young core is that they lacked experience and leadership. Dubas recognized this and brought in Joe Thornton. He brought back Jason Spezza – who I might add, loves this team so much that he said he would retire if anyone claimed him off waivers and he would take less money if he could. Spezza doesn’t say that unless he likes the team and organization a whole lot.

Dubas set this team up for success. He did his job and then he went out and added to the team  at the deadline. He played his part.

In hockey there is always an element of luck; a couple of bounces here, a miss or save there and you can go a long way. The Toronto Maple Leafs got didn’t get those bounces.

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What doesn’t change is what Dubas did to set the team up for victory. He can only do so much from the box in the third deck. Unpopular opinion: Kyle Dubas was the best part of this organization this season.