“Until you change your thinking,
You will always recycle your experiences”
Since the Maple Leafs drafted and iced a core of talented players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander has there been an off-season so filled with angst, urgency for change and pressure to change as this one?
In previous blogs and podcasts, we have spoken about the importance for this off-season to be a home-run (pardon the baseball pun) then this one. GM Kyle Dubas finds himself in an unenviable position after an early post season exit of his Maple Leafs in fixing a roster that is still incomplete while facing a flat cap no less to fill the holes in the bottom six forward unit and in his top four on defence.
Here is the million dollar question this upcoming off-season, is Dubas so dogmatic in his thinking of how this team should look that he continues down the same path or can he pivot and learn from his counterparts in Dallas and Tampa Bay, as both teams made the requisite changes around its core to reshape their roster that helped catapult them into the finals.
Outside of the shiny big ticket free agents and their possibilities of landing here in Toronto, one has to change philosophies if the hard decisions are to be made. I know Dubas strongly believes in this core, but if the time or possible trade came available to really reshape this roster would he make it?
Would he “break” the promises to Nylander, Marner and so on if it meant retooling this roster? Would he look to trade Andreas Johnsson or Alexander Kerfoot who he acquired in the Nazem Kadri trade that simply didn’t work out as planned?
Do Dubas and the Maple Leafs have it in them to make a franchise altering trade similar to the one their cousins in the Scotia Bank Arena made when the Raptors and Masai Ujiri traded Demar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard? Which earned the Raptors their first championship when many thought that wasn’t possible. He certainly has the resources to do it, with a flat cap possibly shaking loose players who wouldn’t otherwise be available from teams looking to shed salary, the possibility for big things are possible but the plan and vision has to change to make these trades a reality.
Really the plan to date has been skill, skill and more skill. But as the Tampa Lightening have shown some toughness and grit is required to play and win come the playoffs. Being the “winners” of the regular season or simply making the playoffs can no longer be the goal. There might be tears needed to be shed and good if not great players may need to be moved, if the team is to find a new identity and one that sees them hard to play against no matter the game or opponent. Too often when the going got rough, this young team had little to no push back which led to more heartbreak for a franchise so familiar with it.
So a real change in the identity is needed, giving from the pool of talented players to bring in players with a different pedigree can help to round out the roster and would go a long way in showing the fans and critics alike that management sees the issues and will make the difficult decisions to rectify them.
In closing, Can Dubas learn from his missteps, can he pivot in the face of defeat and make the appropriate changes? I’d like to think so as his career is dependent on it. If he can change, then expect the unexpected and look for wholesale change to this team’s identity. You will know right away as the first couple of signings or trades will be huge indicators what path Dubas wants to chart moving forward. If he can’t as the opening quote states, then this team is doomed to recycle its experiences.
Look for our new podcast going live tomorrow as co-host Anthony Cino and I discuss the free agent market, which players we believe would go a long way to improve this team’s fortunes come next season, what impact signing Alex Pietrangelo will have on the roster and what further changes will happen if this signing does take place and so much more.
Also, if you aren’t already, give us a follow on Twitter at @CntrLeafsNation as on Thursday we will be launching a contest! As we are set to give away a Manscaped Prize Pack at the end of October!