Maple Leafs Take It On Chin From Mirtle


I’ll offer more on the recent moves with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the dismissal of Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle and the appointment of Kyle Dubas to Assistant General Manager. Only in Toronto could the naming of an assistant GM in the middle of the offseason generate so much attention. However, one article really caught my eye and it’s an awesome, yet scathing critique of how things have apparently been done at MLSE up until recently:

“For too long – years and years, really – the Leafs front office has been built on cronyism. It was – and still in many ways is, if you look at the scouting department – a group of older former pro players, two of whom were let go on Tuesday to make way for 28-year-old assistant GM Kyle Dubas.”


Not false, however I do ask the question, how many teams aren’t filled with older former players? The Maple Leafs, like most teams in hockey and sports is predictable in that nature. A team fires an executive (coach or gm) and you know that for the most part the replacement is going to come from a fairly predicable pool of candidates that usually includes former players. That person, surrounds himself with “his” guys. It may not be the right way, but it’s the way it’s worked almost without exception (that’s a generalization) in sports. When Bill Parcells was jumping around the NFL you knew quite easily who was going to follow him. When Phil Jackson or Pat Riley have moved along the same was true.

“Not only has this group been reluctant to change in the face of failure, they’ve displayed thinly veiled disdain for the analytics movement for two seasons now, publicly denouncing the kind of innovation that has helped teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks build Stanley Cup contenders while the Leafs imploded late in the year.”

Them’s fighting words! Pure hockey guys rejecting the use of computers and statistics to where scouting used to be the ONLY way is not surprising though is it? I am not making excuses, but I don’t think this is a shock to anyone. I will say that what does surprise me is that I seem to recall people raving about Claude Loiselle’s appointment years back as being a breath of fresh air and that he brought with him new ideas too.

“Rather than analytics, however, the real story of the day was the reveal that Shanahan had seen the Leafs for what they were: An organization that had become diseased from the top and that was in need of new blood and new ideas.

This hire was the first step.”

I’d love to know what Dave Nonis thinks of this one line in particular. It’s hard to believe that the aforementioned disease which apparently started at the top didn’t include him. At some point I have to imagine a conversation took place as to the roles and responsibilities between Nonis and Shanahan. While this move is clearly a Shanahan move, Nonis is still, at least in title the GM.

If we are to believe that this entire process began only a few weeks ago, I think I read somewhere that July 9th was the first time Shanahan met with Dubas then to say this was always part of the master plan seems a bit off. If David Branch doesn’t mention Dubas to Shanahan, as it’s been written to have happened, then aren’t Pulin and Loiselle still in their seats?

If that is indeed the truth, then it is a much more shocking turn of events as that’s lightning fast for changes of this magnitude to take place. I don’t recall seeing if this was mentioned, but I’d have to imagine that board approval was needed to fire the two guys given the amount of term they had left and to hire Dubas. To meet the kid, interview him enough times, offer him the job, negotiate a deal and get board approval in around 10 days is very fast.

The truth though is that media have made this all about analytics.

“Dubas won’t be able to transform the Leafs overnight. He has a lot to learn about being an NHL executive and Shanahan’s next hires in the front office will be vital. They need a capologist, for one, and someone who can handle the complex relationship with the Toronto Marlies and the 50-man reserve list limit, two things Dubas can learn over time.”

At the end of the day, Nonis has lost his management team, save for Cliff Fletcher and his scouts. However, he still is there and so too is the coach. While I doubt we will every know, it would be interesting to know what happens the first time Dubas disagrees with a suggested move that Nonis and the scouts recommend. Every move in Toronto is judged and over judged as it is. Every new player will be evaluated as being a Dubas player or not. Same with every player on the way out. Not really sure how you evaluate the work of the assistant gm, but here in Toronto it will be easy I am sure!


About the Author