SIMMONS: Kyle Dubas misplayed his hand and it cost him his job with the Maple Leafs

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Kyle Dubas has reportedly fired himself as general manager of the Maple Leafs.

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There’s another way of reading it — that team president Brendan Shanahan made the inevitable phone call and cold determination — but the circumstances of the past five days have been highly unusual in the hockey business, or perhaps any business.

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In a relatively short time, Dubas was offered a significant contract extension by Golden Boy to continue as GM before Monday, and then was told on Friday his services were no longer needed.

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All of these inconsistencies happened in less than seven days.

For a minute, it seemed Shanahan wanted Dubas to continue as GM. Almost in the next minute the GM was gone.

The latest call came from President Shanahan, who has been Dubas’ biggest supporter for the past nine years. That Shanahan could oust Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello from such a big Dubas loyalist and say goodbye to Mark Hunter in his front office until the very end of Friday morning at this time — so close to the NHL draft, so close to being close to major Leaf -Free agency contracts is ample indication that the issues between Shanahan and Dubas ended rather abruptly with their Friday morning meeting.

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Dubas obviously misjudged his circumstances, misjudged Shanahan, misjudged the Maple Leafs’ ownership, and overplayed his hand by turning a renewal offer of more than market value — five years and likely nearly $4 million a season — somehow into no offer at all converted when he aimed for it. He slammed the moon with his counteroffer, effectively shooting himself in the process.

I’ve attended many layoff press conferences over the years, but this one has never been quite like it. Typically, a grim-faced owner or president says a few words, thanks the fired boss for his contributions, and then moves on to questions.

That’s how it usually goes.

Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan exits the podium after announcing that Kyle Dubas will not be returning to the organization as general manager in Toronto on Friday, May 19, 2023. JACK BOLAND/TORONTO SUN
Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan exits the podium after announcing that Kyle Dubas will not be returning to the organization as general manager in Toronto on Friday, May 19, 2023. JACK BOLAND/TORONTO SUN

But today was nothing quite normal for the Leafs and we are now waiting to see what tomorrow will bring.

And there wasn’t anything entirely normal about Shanahan explaining at length – in fact, in minute detail – why Dubas was fired, how Dubas was fired, and the doubts that arose about him Monday afternoon following the post-season availability of the GM.

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That was the beginning of the end for Dubas as GM of the Leafs. In somewhat surprising form, Dubas expressed his personal doubts about remaining a GM in the NHL and the toll it took on his life and that of his family. The Leafs and Shanahan had some idea of ​​what was troubling Dubas and his family, but apparently Shanahan — and possibly the Leafs’ owners, too — didn’t appreciate the public way in which Dubas expressed his feelings and began himself also worrying about the 24/7 nature work and the toll it has taken on it.

They would have liked to have heard it all behind closed doors themselves. They didn’t want anyone’s laundry, personal or professional, hanging out to dry for the public to chew on. Monday’s availability shook the cages at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and certainly hit Shanahan in a number of ways.

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“It was tough on his family,” Shanahan said of the life of a public figure, especially one as public as the Leafs GM. “Honestly, it’s tough for all of our families.”

After Dubas went public with his personal challenges, Shanahan admitted there has been a “dramatic shift in my thinking.” I didn’t get any more clarity in the next few days.”

When they met on Wednesday, two days after Dubas went public and two days before the firing, “I had more questions than answers,” Shanahan said.

On Thursday, Shanahan received a call from Dubas’ agent, an agent better known for golf than hockey. There was a new financial package from the Dubas side, a kind of false counter-offer. “The conversation was brief,” Shanahan said. He knew what he was suddenly thinking. After wanting to grant an extension to Dubas last summer and being turned down by the Leafs owners, Shanahan made another offer to keep him.

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Then came the last five days. “I slept on that,” he said of Dubas’ counteroffer.

When Shanahan woke up, his train of thought was clear: He was going to Etobicoke on Friday morning and firing Dubas at the Leafs’ training facility. Later he would tell the staff about it. There were many sad faces to be seen around the club on Friday afternoon, many of whom were not expecting it.

An attempt to understand Dubas’ view of the story – if there is another side – was rejected. A message left for Dubas was not returned. When he talks about his time with the Leafs, five years as GM, nine years total, that’ll be on his schedule.

Last Monday he said he didn’t want to be a GM anywhere else this season but in Toronto. He said everything, not knowing that this would end so soon.


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