To truly change the culture and identity of an organization you need time, stability, and a clear and concise vision of what you want that identity to be.
As of this date I don’t believe that vision exists within the management group.
After Brendan Shannahan was hired as President and Alternate Governor a lot of great things started to unfold. He hired Kyle Dubas, Brandon Pridham and Mark Hunter. He fired Dave Nonis. He hired one of the most decorated head coaches in the game, Mike Babcock. Then, to top it all off he brought in Lou Lamoriello, one of the most respected GMs ever, to mentor and lead the group.
Just thinking back on it makes me wonder how he pulled it all off.
It also makes me wonder if promoting Kyle Dubas and allowing Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter to leave the organization was the right move.
Now, this isn’t about to be an article that simply rips Kyle Dubas down. On the contrary. This series is about identity and what the Leafs are and want to be. This part of the series will revolve around the management group, goalies and coaches, and how they fit into the puzzle.
So, lets start with the simple part, the goaltenders.
Forget the soft goals. Especially the one in game 5 of the play-in series. The Leafs were down and out anyway. Also, in case you didn’t notice, Martin Marincin was the only defender involved in the play to help Andersen and he’s pretty bad. A better defender with that much decision making time doesn’t allow that shot to get on net….. But I digress.
Until I see any goalie in blue and white play behind a competent defense I won’t judge them.
For now it’s outstanding to think about the great things Andersen has achieved with little to no help here. The blueline is thin and the forwards don’t put in a concerted defensive effort.
It’s my opinion that if he played on a team that takes a defense first approach you would see Frederik Andersen with Vezina votes every year.
The Leafs owe him better than they’ve given and he has never complained. It’s for that reason that I would keep him. He is a steady leader, a quiet voice, and a tremendous talent. All things that you want from a goaltender.
With all of this said there is a single goalie that might hit the market that would make me think twice about moving on from Andersen.
The numbers speak for themselves. His career 2.46GAA and 0.918SV% are spectacular when you consider he has spent much of his time on terrible teams (Ottawa, Buffalo and Chicago in particular).
When he has been on better teams (NYI, VGN) he has sported a GAA that hovers around 2.00 and a SV% between 0.930-0.940. Give him a little help and he will take you a long way.
Aside from the numbers Lehner is an outspoken individual when it comes to mental health awareness. He has suffered from substance abuse and bi-polar disorder. He has overcome a lot in order to become one of the better goalies in the NHL. He’s a confident, skilled, and respected goaltender, and what more could you really ask for?
At the end of the day I don’t believe a change in goal is necessary. However, shipping out one of the core and a good friend to Auston Matthews could give the entire group a wake up call. They seem far too comfortable, so maybe the reality of not being safe in Toronto (and being able to demand those lucrative sponsorship deals) would make some guys work a little harder.
On the other hand if you continuously ship out guys that are good friends with the core players that could make those core players think about moving on to join their buddies elsewhere.
As they seem less interested in representing the jersey than they do being rich and comfortable this is a legitimate concern.
No coaching change will come any time soon as far as the head coach is concerned.
It is possible that the Leafs could add Bruce Boudreau as an assistant.
I won’t talk about this that much other than to say this is exactly the type of individual that you want behind your bench.
Boudreau would come here for nothing more than the desire to be a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. If there are players within the dressing room that are taking the fact that they are Leafs for granted he’ll certainly let them know. He’s a no-nonsense coach, a proven professional and winner, and a passionate Leaf fan.
Kyle Dubas needs to add this guy to the coaching staff.
I wish the players seemed half as passionate as Bruce.
I don’t hate this move and I love you Bruce!!
Brendan Shannahan, like Bruce Boudreau, grew up as a fan of the Maple Leafs. I believe he has done a tremendous job so far as President and Alternate Governor, and I believe there was really only one mistake so far as it pertains to culture and identity.
I believe that Brendan thought he was making the right decision when he anointed Dubas as the GM of the Leafs, and he may still be right about that. At the moment it appears to have been a mistake though.
In order for my opinion on this to change there will have to be massive changes on and off the ice.
I know I said at the top that this wouldn’t be an article that simply tears strips off of Kyle Dubas, so I’m going to try to toss in some good points, but this is about the identity and culture of the organization and thus far it appears that the culture is that of a country club and not that of a hard working institution.
First for some good.
The Leafs have moved on from drafting players such as David Broll, Jamie Devane, Ryan Rupert and Tyler Biggs. While it would be nice to see a shot taken at a player with size every now and then, these picks were far too frequent under past regimes. None of those players had any serious upside outside of being 3rd and 4th line goons/energy players, and none played many games in the NHL.
Instead we are seeing the polar opposite.
With two drafts under his belt Kyle Dubas hasn’t taken a single player that combines any kind of height and weight. There hasn’t been a single player taken that weighs over 200lbs, and only a few that are six feet or taller. No skaters are over 6’1” in fact.
Skill, skill, and more skill is what the doctor ordered and Kyle Dubas inteads to drown you in it. In the end they appear to want to identify as a high skill organization, where creativity and offense are highly valued.
How this all works out is yet to be seen, but at least these players have high ceilings. Each pick is a swing for the fences, and the Leafs seem intent on helping their draft picks develop by giving them all the tools they need to succeed. Or at least they could if it wasn’t for pesky owners of other teams constantly complaining about the fact that the Leafs want to develop their players.
This level of attention to their prospects and their development is great and will only help the franchise as they move forward. It has also helped them attract European talent such as Nikita Soshnikov, Ilya Mikheyev, and more recently Mikko Lehtonen and Alex Barabanov. Ilya Mikheyev was ready to jump right into the NHL and it’s assumed that Lehtonen and Barabanov will as well. How high up in the lineup they’ll play is yet to be seen, but for an organization to land these types of players is a positive. Cheap depth is always important for contending teams, and that is what is being provided at the very least.
This all started with Lou Lamoriello. There were numerous reports of Lou and Mike Babcock heading overseas to scout and meet players personally. Igor Ozhiganov was one such player, and while things didn’t work out quite the way they had hoped, Igor wasn’t altogether terrible either.
I guess all I’m saying is these players are worth taking a chance on and landing them has transitioned through two GMs now. Hopefully that carries forward.
Caring for your prospects, showing genuine interest in potential signings, and showing that you value your current players is important.
To a point.
I applaud Kyle Dubas for spending time in hospital with Mikheyev after he suffered a gruesome wrist injury on the road in December. Ilya was a long way from home, had only a tenuous grasp of the language and was without family and friends. Staying by his side was a solid move.
On the flip side you could get carried away with a similar hands-on approach.
Tyson Barrie has proven to be one of the most heartless and passionless players to ever don the Maple Leaf. So when Dubas blames himself for the poor start of Tyson Barrie I can’t do much but shake my head. According to Dubas he needs to better aid players with their adjustment into the organization.
I’d agree if I thought the player ever wanted to be here.
I’d also agree if this seemed to be a recurring problem. However, players such as Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford, Cody Ceci, Jake Muzzin and LITERALLY EVERYBODY ELSE are capable of being traded and coming in to have some type of positive impact on their new team.
This was a Tyson Barrie problem, not a Kyle Dubas problem, and it’s that inability to let players know when they simply aren’t working hard enough that makes me worry.
Is this a five star resort where you’re to be waited on and made comfortable, or a professional sports franchise where people work their tails off to reach a common goal? Because, apparently, there’s a thin line separating the two.
It appears that this “I’m the GM and it’s all my fault” mentality has bled through other areas of the franchise as well.
From blaming himself for negotiations going right down to the deadline with William Nylander, to it being his fault that Mitch Marner wanted to be massively overpaid because his fragile ego couldn’t handle his not being compared to Auston Matthews, to the penalty kill costing the Leafs their series against the Boston Bruins and vowing to fix the problem (which he never did), he has always taken things upon his own shoulders.
Somewhat foolish if you go too far.
The players, coaches, AND management need to feel the pressure and honour of wearing the Leaf each day and need to take responsibility when things don’t go to plan. Simply rolling over to allow the players to do as they please and write their own cheques just won’t cut it because if you do then you’ll end up with some of your highest paid players taking games off in the playoffs when it really counts.
Money well spent Kyle.
It’s quotes like this that have many wondering where this is going.
Is this the identity of the Leafs right now? Lazy players, ferocious negotiators and unapologetic about either?
Is this the culture that is being developed? One where you can decide to hold out during contract negotiations and demand every penny “you’re worth” and only give back 4 of 5 games in a series (that’s Mitchs opinion, lets say the opinion of many is that Mitch gave much, much less)?
Would Lou Lamoriello or Mark Hunter tolerate this?
Why is Kyle Dubas still standing in front of the cameras to defend his stars and insist that they are all safe in Toronto?
If this were a player that gave everything he had over the course of 5 nights I would very much understand, but that is far from the case. This is a player that gave 50% at best on 4 nights and 0% the other.
Maybe the big problem is the criticism is coming from the wrong place. It isn’t the media and fans that should be the loudest voice in Marners ear, maybe it’s the GM who assembled a team that isn’t good enough to get the job done and will eventually lose his job because of it that should be telling some of these kids that they need to be better.
After all, sometimes that’s what you need in order to be the best version of yourself. Sometimes you need to live in a culture of accountability and identify as somebody that can take on their own problems and work to fix them (think Robin Lehner).
Instead, right now the problem is a lack of heart, a lack of passion, and a lack of realization of what it truly means to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, and that is being defended by the person with the greatest ability to snuff it out.