Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas: Slow and Steady Wins The Race

The NHL season is finally approaching its end after what felt like a two-year long season. Both Dallas and Tampa have earned their spot in the finals and will compete for the Stanley Cup. Amidst all the unexpected twists and turns that has plagued the world and the NHL season, one thing has remained constant. Maple Leaf fans and their displeasure with Kyle Dubas. The irony in this lies within the fact that much of the criticism Dubas has faced over the last two seasons have been unjustified and frankly quite comical. 

In just two seasons as full time general manager, Dubas has found ways to sign elite talent (Tavares), add veteran depth players at a team friendly price (Spezza), a true back-up goalie (Campbell) and undo the mistakes (Marleau) (Zaitsev) that were bestowed upon him. So why does he continue to take flack for a roster that on paper has improved drastically over the years? Believe it or not, this team did get better. In saying this, results are truly what dictate if this team did improve or not and I think that is the biggest reason Maple Leafs fans are unable to give Dubas a proper chance. Due to the “success” of former GM Lou Lamoriello seems to be having in New York, I believe that Dubas is being unfairly compared to a GM that has been successful for many years because it’s the easy thing to do. Success is extremely subjective. For some teams, success is measured by winning the Cup and for others success can be seen as any form of improvement. Unfortunately for Toronto, neither has happened this season, but how much of that is Dubas responsible for? 

It seems as though the media in Toronto has brainwashed fans into believing that what Dubas is doing to this roster has been so unsuccessful that it could be considered a failure. In year two of his regime. Year two. 

The Los Angeles Kings could be considered one of the most successful teams in the past decade, winning the Stanley Cup twice in that time. Dean Lombardi was named GM before the 06-07 season and didn’t make the playoffs for the first time until the 2010 season. It took him and the Kings four seasons to finally make it to the playoffs, before rifling off two championships in three years. L.A was patient. Now, I fully understand that Lombardi inherited a very untalented roster and completely turned the franchise around, but the takeaway is that it took him four seasons to get his feet off the ground and running and once they finally did, it was hard to stop L.A.

David Poile is one of the most well-respected GM’s in the league. He took over the Nashville Predators in 1997 and to this day he is still tasked with the challenge of creating a championship worthy roster. Nashville has done a 180 from where they started 20 seasons ago and developed a roster that had their best chance to win the Cup only a few seasons ago. In 22 seasons, Nashville is still yet to be crowned champions but has had multiple “successful” seasons. 

Steve Yzerman was named GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010. In his eight seasons as GM, he was unable to bring Tampa to the cup final, let alone win the Stanley Cup. However, he did create a very successful roster filled with tons of talent at palatable prices. Tampa has finally gotten over their playoff woes after consecutive years of disappointment and have a chance to raise Lord Stanley with a roster that Yzerman created, although he is no longer employed with Tampa.  The biggest take away from the Yzerman comparison is that Tampa allotted him enough time to make the roster his own and didn’t try to rush the process after a few bad playoff appearances. 

Toronto has three remaining contracts on their main roster that were signed by Lamoriello. Fredrick Andersen, Morgan Reilly and Zach Hyman. All three of these contracts are extremely good considering the talent and what their comparable partners are getting paid. The unfortunate part (for the Maple Leafs) is that all three are probably looking at a pay raise when their contracts do expire. Kyle Dubas has spent his first two full seasons as GM trying to make amends for the previous mistakes that NEEDED to be undone. He has attempted to fix the defence as best he could considering the anchoring contracts he had to replace and has done a very good job at drafting AND scouting players to bring over via juniors or Europe.

Dubas has made strides in his first two seasons as a GM and will continue to trend upward as time moves on. There are no reasons to chase him out of town after two seasons, ESPECIALLY one being this season in particular. The main take away from this entire blog is that patience really is a virtue and there genuinely is no rush. The Cup window isn’t closing anytime soon, in fact it’s as wide open as ever. With great leadership, a new coach and a roster Dubas can finally call his own, I expect big things to come.