The Kyle Dubas Era in Toronto: Five Turning Points

John Tavares is an absolute regular season player, an ideal daily spokesperson in this media market, and a solid GTA citizen. But is a seven-year, $77 million deal worth it? That’s one of five factors in Kyle Dubas’ career as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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In his eventful five years as General Manager, here are five turning points for outgoing Kyle Dubas:

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Captain’s salary crisis

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John Tavares is an absolute regular season player, an ideal daily spokesperson in this media market, and a solid GTA citizen.

But is a seven-year, $77 million deal worth it? The playoff results aren’t in yet, and his signing, at least so far, may not have been worth the subsequent salary-cap gymnastics Dubas and capologist Brandon Pridham endured to fill the lineup around him.

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And Tavares has two years left on his contract, which could hamper the Dubas successor’s efforts to more or less win.

Yes, there were plenty of NHL contenders for Tavares when he signed from the Islanders before Dubas went all-in with MLSE’s millions. But aside from the overtime goal against Tampa Bay, he wasn’t consistently the game-changer.

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After the 2017/18 season, there were numerous indications of tension between quarrelsome coach Mike Babcock and the Young Guns stars.

Babcock’s conservative use of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in that season’s playoff loss to Boston was called into question, and the coach had to fly to Arizona to fix fences over the summer. It wasn’t a peace mission that Babcock liked, and reading between the lines of Dubas’ quotes about Babcock at camp that year, it was probably time to move on.

But the $50 million coach’s debts were too high to contemplate a layoff, which came three months later.

Sheldon Keefe, Dubas’ coach with the Soo Greyhounds, earned his Calder Cup-winning shot with the Marlies and, after a record-breaking few regular seasons, also had his NHL playoff shots. But four series, of which at least two were victorious, were lost.

By Monday Dubas had begun to distance himself from Keefe and had Keefe remained in office a sacrifice would have been due from the coach.

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Not all offers were bargains

In the trade market, Dubas has had hits and misses, but there has not been sufficient improvement in three areas: goalkeeping, defense and physicality.

Even the frugal move to make UFA Ilya Samsonov a cheap No. 1 stopper this season has been thwarted by the injury-prone Matt Murray’s hefty lead for two years. Before that, Jack Campbell eventually proved too emotionally weak, the signings of Petr Mrazek and David Rittich didn’t work and Dubas disagreed with Babcock’s desire to protect substitute Curtis McElhinney before using Garret Sparks.

Duba’s draft pick Joseph Woll could turn out to be No. 1 next season if there weren’t a new GM.

While Dubas couldn’t control Jake Muzzin’s injury situation, he was over-reliant on enlisting the likes of Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci to help out on the blueline.

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This year’s return of Luke Schenn was a feel-good story, but the cost of draft picks to take on Jake McCabe, Mark Giordano and the now-deceased Ilya Lyubushkin has yet to be calculated.

And while the Leafs struggled in the playoffs to get along with the big teams the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, Dubas overpaid for Nick Foligno, then couldn’t get him to stay while also losing Mason Marchment to a deal for Denis Malgin.


Whether he gave them big bucks or a long leash, Matthews, Marner and William Nylander were never really criticized by the GM when warranted, at least not publicly. Keefe lowered the boom after one game and then dropped it again, likely at the urging of someone above him.

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They got their second contracts, barring a few holdouts, and while we weren’t thrilled with former general manager Lou LamorielloBy old-school rules, with Dubas’ blessing, there were plenty of remaining photo ops and commercials, particularly for Matthews.

It’s good for everyone to have other interests and make the most of their fame, but those looks aren’t great when compared to the handshake at the end of the season.

“I know some people would say, ‘Just focus on hockey,'” Dubas said Toronto Sun in a previous interview. “But hockey takes up four hours of your day. There are 20 more we need to find fulfillment. When it comes to fashion, clothing, golf, or (playing) Fortnite, I think they’ll do better when they come on stage as long as they fill those other hours.”

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The numbers didn’t add up

Dubas kept his word from day one “not to overwhelm fans and media with analysis,” and with the signing of fan favorites like Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, and Schenn, he likely changed some of his own philosophy and attempted to encourage “organic” heaviness within the squad.

However, since he has chosen to remain so far behind the scenes and only give infrequent interviews, he could have better explained the story behind the numbers and how they relate to Leaf’s net worth. The playoff losses did little to ensure the Leafs’ method of analysis was working.

It took fans chirping and angry water bottle tossing, all filmed on television, to act out Dubas’ inner passion, ironically earning him favor.


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