Thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs GM Wars: Treliving v. Dubas

Former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas of the Pittsburgh Penguins attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas of the Pittsburgh Penguins attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are, and have been, in a weird and annoying place for a while.

The Toronto Maple Leafs had an excellent young GM, but because they didn’t win immediately, and because he replaced a respected Hall of Fame Legend, and because he wasn’t an ex-player, but mostly (I posit) because he was aggressively intellectual and innovative, there was a segment of the fanbase, and media, that would never accept him. 

This should not have surprised anyone, since hockey is, historically, rabidly against any kinds of innovation or new kinds of thinking.

The Leafs are currently in the middle of the best run of their 100 year existence.  They have set multiple team records and been a top team for the last four season, only to suffer from extremely unlikely and unlucky playoff defeats.

This renders critics of Dubas petty and ridiculous – they clearly do not like the guy for some weird reasons it’s probably better to not get into, and they never did and never would have.

There was a series they lost where Tavares didn’t play, Matthews couldn’t shoot the puck, and in which they became the only team, ever, to force OT in back-to-back games by overcoming multi-goal deficits and still lose.

The fact they didn’t get any credit for this series shows that their critics would not even consider listening to reason.

Thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs GM Wars: Brad Treliving Vs Kyle Dubas

I’m almost glad they fired him just to see an end to this ridiculous discourse.

To be honest, my reason for being upset they fired him isn’t because I like Dubas specifically, it’s because I hate that a team that tried to sell us on a process-not-results vision were forced to betray the convictions of their vision and succumb to the realities of professional sports being an extremely results-based business.

But of course any criticism of the new GM is falling under the same umbrella, which is unfortunate, (Or is it, I could easily be making a strawman out of a small but vocal minority).

The Leafs haven’t changed their philosophy one iota under the new guy, but the people who hated Dubas just bombard you with (ridiculous) cries of “biased” and “hater” if you question anything they’ve done. (Again, this is my perception; see the parenthetical remarks in the last paragraph).

I didn’t like every move Dubas made, and I won’t hate any move that Treliving makes.  But there is evidence (available to anyone with an internet connection and five minutes) that John Klingberg, Max Domi, David Kampf and Ryan Reaves making as much as Mitch Marner isn’t a good way for an already cap-challenged team to spend their money.

That said, the new GM is in a tricky position of having to put his mark on the team without really disrupting what works already.  All of these moves are understandable, and overall, fairly low-risk.

There is every chance that Brad Treliving ends up being a great  GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but am I biased against him? I write exclusively editorials, so objectivity isn’t even a small part of my job description.  Still, I’d like to think I’m not the same as the people whose clearly biased views drive me so nuts.

I really did like the last guy, but I still criticized the moves I didn’t like.  I don’t think I am, but then again, the people screaming about Dubas because he’s 34 and wears glasses probably don’t think they’re being petty and silly either.

I am biased in that I prefer the old guy, however, I am not so biased that I will cheer against my favorite team, or that I won’t be willing to give out credit where it’s due (as in, signing Matthews, signing Bertuzi or dealing with the Matt Murray situation).

Ultimately, we all want the Toronto Maple Leafs to win (well, excepting those tryhards who just want attention and who cheered against their favorite team because they didn’t like the GM).  The team is in a great place – several superstars in their primes, and a very good chance to win it all – and that’s extremely enjoyable.

I for one wish that the GM Wars didn’t mirror political discourse, but short of ignoring everyone you don’t agree with (a move fraught with it’s own horrible consequences) I don’t really see that ending any time soon. (In fact sports enthusiasts are some of the only people still crossing the metaphoric aisle with each other, at least when it comes to public discourse)

This team hasn’t won for 125 years of so.  We have planned so many parades that ended up being held in other cities with other fans.  We’re not all ever going to agree on everything, and ultimately I think that’s fine.

I like Kyle Dubas, and I like Brad Treliving too.  I pretty much like everyone who also likes the Leafs. The only thing I ask is that we give this team it’s due for an excellent four years, even if the results weren’t what we’d have wanted.

In the end, I think extreme love or extreme hate for anyone at the top of any organization is misguided – ultimately running a hockey team is the job of a dedicated team, not one guy.  The Leafs changed GMs, but they ran back the exact same team the same way they’ve done for years (by switching out about ten guys who don’t matter) and they have the same president and contract negotiator they’ve always had.

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I don’t have a good snappy ending here, and I wish I had a few weeks to craft this into a less off-the-top-of-my-head argument, but hopefully it was entertaining to you and gave you something to think about.  If not, I doubt you made it this far anyways!!! Here’s to another great season.