Feb 22, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs Front office/Coaching staff
Since Kyle Dubas was named GM in 2018, the team has consistently improved. In 2018-19 although “his team” many would agree that Lou Lamoriello’s fingerprints were still all over it. They still had the albatross contracts of Patrick Marleau and Nikita Zaitsev. As well as the underwhelming defensive core that Lou left behind. Also, as would soon become clear, a pretty bare prospect cupboard that wasn’t going to produce much at the NHL level.
Since taking over Dubas has made massive improvements to the depth, prospect pool, and most notably the defensive group. Besides a setback in 2019-20 that saw Dubas fire then head coach Mike Bacbock and replace him with Sheldon Keefe, the team has steadily improved.
This past year they were a top ten defensive team by every metric, ranking as high as fourth in expected goals. This, combined with them ranking no lower than seventh in every offensive metric shows they’re a talented team at both ends of the ice. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Firing Kyle Dubas won’t make the team better. Besides a few trades you’d like a mulligan on (which happens with every GM) and the team’s inability to get over the playoff hump, Dubas’ record so far in the NHL is great.
He’s locked up his core pieces like: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly. All while adding key supporting cast players like: TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin, Michael Bunting, and David Kämpf. The latter two being signed for a combined $2.45 million until the end of next season. He’s expertly navigated the “cap hell” everyone says they’re in and has been able to find diamonds in the rough.
He’s too soon into his tenure for his draft choices to have really paid off but Rasmus Sandin has been great so far in his young career. While other notable prospects like Nick Robertson, Matthew Knies, and Topi Niemela look like they could be steals. Dubas has also been able to add to his prospect pool and NHL depth without draft picks by signing players like: Alex Steeves, Kristians Rubins, and Erik Källgren.
All the reasons listed for Dubas not to be fired, they can almost all be applied to Sheldon Keefe as well. In both of his two full seasons behind the bench he’s either been on pace to or has set the franchise record for points in a season. Overall in 185 games, Keefe has a record of 116-50-19 with a points percentage of .678%. (hockeyreferece.com).
He too has gotten better every year, finishing this past season with a .701%, firing him at this point would be short-sighted. The same goes for assistant coaches Spencer Carbery and Dean Chynoweth. They brought the power-play and penalty kill from 16th and 23rd to 1st and 8th respectively, league-wide.
If the Leafs were to fire Kyle Dubas and/or the coaching staff they’d likely be worse off for it. They’ve been able to put together a great roster and organization as whole, despite not getting past the first round. They’ve done more than enough to deserve a longer look to see this team through.