Just when we think the summertime is quiet time in Leafworld, we are provided with a jolt.
The hiring of 28 year-old Kyle Dubas as Assistant General Manager will be applauded far and wide by the fraternity of Leaf supporters who are also advocates regarding the value of advanced stats. I’m sure Dubas is more than simply a stats guy, and his background suggests that, despite his youth, he has been on a successful career path in hockey for many years. By all accounts he did an excellent job as General Manager of the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. The fact that Brendan Shanahan has brought him in tells us the Leafs have, philosophically, made a 180 degree turn.
I had always assumed that management and the Leaf coaches were well aware of what the “advanced” numbers were telling them. If and how they fully utilized those numbers, I wasn’t so sure. Nonetheless, I figured they certainly had access to that information. This hiring, however, indicates the Leafs will now be in the company of NHL clubs who see absolute value in the data cranked out when it comes to individual players, possession numbers and such things.
Now, does this mean the Leafs will stop chasing grit and character (think Gary Roberts—and in the present time, Bolland, Clarkson, Robidas, etc.) and all those wonderful intangibles that I’ve always believed were necessary to win championships? Will they now focus more on skill and players who will also bring impressive Fenwick/Corsi (have I got that right?) numbers?
Again, I don’t know for sure, but the recent selection of William Nylander in the first round is yet another sign that Shanahan is moving the Leafs in a different direction.
With Poulin and Loiselle now gone, it’s unclear whether Dubas will be the only newcomer in the front office, but I think we can rest assured he will not only be an active voice but someone that Nonis will have to listen to. Both Carlyle and Nonis are working with new assistants, and that likely means they are now under the gun, too.
I’ve said here in recent days that Shanahan is giving players and Carlyle another “chance” to show they can get the job done. That evidently applies to Nonis as well. To some extent, that means he has faith in their ability to do the job.
But as much as many observers, myself included, are saying Shanahan has exhibited patience since taking over as Maple Leaf President, in the same breath, he is actually making some significant moves, simply in a somewhat quiet and measured manner.
My guess is many Leaf supporters, while they might have preferred a new management team and Head coach in place for the upcoming season, will now see some light at the end of the tunnel. Shanahan is definitely in charge. He was a top flight NHLer in his day, a combination of skill and determination. Now, he seems to be on the leading edge of where the game is going.
If so, things just got a whole lot more interesting in Leafland…