Kyle Dubas had to look down the street from Toronto to find the team that would give him the title, the power, and probably the money to run a hockey team his way.
That, coupled with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ strong desire to immediately hire a dynamic young manager, prompted Dubas to back down on his emotional promise made two weeks earlier that he would either return to the Maple Leafs or take time off with his wife Shannon, who has two children , 2 and 6.
Half an hour before Brad Treliving was unveiled as his replacement as Leafs general manager Thursday morning, the Pens announced Dubas as their president of hockey operations, where his change of heart has been questioned.
“Maybe that day I was too honest about how I was feeling in that exact moment,” Dubas said.
“As we reached the final day (President Brendan Shanahan released him on May 19), we were inundated with calls and texts. People want to come home. It’s beautiful, but also sad.
“Very early the next morning I called one of our employees. I got a call on area code 647, a message from Sam (Kennedy of Fenway Sports Management) telling me they had permission (to speak before June 30th) from Toronto. My first hunch was that we needed to take a deep breath before considering other options.
“My wife said later in the day, ‘I think you should go and at least meet them.’ When they are great people, they have a long-term view of the organization and they will be a good fit when it comes to the interests of everyone you will be working for and with, and the employees have a great feeling… we’re going to move anyway before the kids are too deep-rooted.”
The Pens also had Shannon and the kids in mind when they arranged a VIP tour of the city, and the Dubas’s made his decision earlier this week.
“That’s a thing of the past,” said Dubas about the circumstances of his departure. “We jumped in with both feet.”
The Pens had other young hockey executives in mind but shortlisted 37-year-old Dubas when he became available. His resume includes nine years working for the Leafs with influences from Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and two front office juniors who could join him, Brandon Pridham and Jason Spezza.
Dubas has helped make Toronto a target team for many free agents again with his off-ice program and perks. There have also been five winning seasons under Dubas as GM, the last two with 110+ points, but only one win in the playoff series and a potentially costly legacy of contracts and trades.
When Shanahan fired Dubas, he was very specific about how he wanted to grant a contract extension in an open play, but was concerned by Dubas’ crude remarks about needing a break. Then came an argument with Dubas’ agent Chris Armstrong over the terms of more money and Dubas’ request to “streamline” the decision-making process with Shanahan and the MLSE board on hockey matters to give Dubas a longer leash. Both Shanahan and the board were probably positive about this idea given the lack of playoff results under Dubas.
In Pittsburgh, Dubas now has the power to appoint his own GM, but said Thursday he will take on that interim role in the weeks leading up to the NHL draft and make a more informed decision afterward.
He is expected to be joined by some Bay St loyalists – Special Assistant Spezza resigned the same day Dubas was fired and Deputy GM Pridham is seeking a bigger role – which would intensify ties between geographic rivals.
Facing speculation that if Keefe were eventually fired he would also just head south on I-75, Dubas quickly befriends current Pens coach Mike Sullivan, clearly suggesting he’ll stay, though they missed the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. Dubas and Sullivan discussed some squad philosophies during Dubas’ first visit to Steeltown last week.
“Sully and I had a brief discussion about it. The top end of the forward group (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Rickard Rackell) is very, very good. Do we need one more piece there to surpass us? Then it’s about what types of players we want in the bottom half to deliver the game to the top players.”
Dubas and Crosby have already teamed up and Dubas said a long-term plan to support Crosby and Malkin and gradually rebuild is a priority.
When asked if the Penguins’ window is closed for a fourth Stanley Cup since 2009, he replied, “If people want to bet against Mike, Sidney, Evgeni, Kris Letang and others, they can go ahead.” But I’ll put them here accompany.”
As for the odd timing of Dubas’ press conference on Thursday, Shanahan stressed that he didn’t mind being sidelined, that he’s been in touch with Fenway over the past few days regarding Dubas’ move and knows that the The Pens’ decision on their GM is imminent.
New Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving is poised to address a number of immediate issues
Brad Treliving could do worse than bring Sheldon Keefe back as Leafs coach
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https://torontosun.com/sports/pittsburgh-penguins-job-too-tempting-so-kyle-dubas-walks-back-talk-of-a-break The job in Pittsburgh is too tempting, so Kyle Dubas retracts talk of a break