“… I think that he’s a young fellow who has tremendous abilities. I know of his background and if he doesn’t become a general manager here, and I’m not going to be here for a lifetime, it’s going to be his fault.”
- Lou Lamoriello on Kyle Dubas
“I think having Lou in the organization is an opportunity for him to mentor us all, and I think that there are a lot of general managers in the league right now that would say that Lou helped them along in their careers.”
- Brendan Shanahan, when asked if part of Lou Lamoriellos responsibility as general manager would be to mentor Kyle Dubas to eventually take over as GM of the Maple Leafs.
When Lou Lamoriello was hired as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs there was already speculation that Kyle Dubas would eventually take over. Three years later we’ve witnessed that speculation as being accurate. Brendan Shanahan has spoken about the interview with Kyle that was supposed to be one to two hours long, yet expanded into nine hours of hockey discussion. He has said repeatedly how impressed he has been with Kyle Dubas and I must admit, I too have never been disappointed with hearing him talk hockey. He appears to be a very intelligent individual that uses all the tools at his disposal to make decisions. How well he does as an NHL GM is yet to be seen, but I’m willing to give him a shot.
What I’m most interested to talk about is how, and why, he was named general manager at this time. It’s not as if Lou Lamoriello was running this team poorly. Some would suggest he has been too patient. Being somebody that believes in the draft and develop route, and that trading to fix your problems is nearly impossible in todays NHL landscape, I’d say I’m happy with what has been going on so far.
So, what changed exactly?
I’d suggest nothing changed, but if things were left as they were changes were coming anyway.
It’s generally accepted that NHL teams won’t block other teams from giving their employees promotions, especially if those employees won’t get the same opportunity within their own organization any time soon. When the Leafs granted the Arizona Coyotes permission to speak to Dubas it was this way…. or so they though. They believed they wanted to speak to Dubas about becoming their general manager. Reports later stated that there was some miscommunication and it wasn’t the general manager position they wanted him for afterall, so the Leafs shut the door.
The question to ask here is how long would it have taken before another team came forward with interest in Dubas, this time for their GM position? I’d guess it would come sooner rather than later.
We should ask ourselves the same question in regards to Mark Hunter. Shanahan stated that while he did look at outside options it had more to do with due diligence, and he quickly learned that the best candidates were in house. So, in short, they had three options and each carried their own fallout.
Option 1 would have been simple enough, let Lou stay on as GM and continue to build.
While I think this option would have been great for another year, maybe two, with each passing day (and fired GM), you risk losing one (or both) of Kyle Dubas or Mark Hunter. Both are solid candidates to be NHL general managers, and teams are in the process of shuffling their front offices right now. If you keep Lou is it possible that Minnesota calls the next day to ask after either of those men? Or would they go a step further and ask to interview both? As much respect as I have for Lou, we need to be realistic, he is in his 70s now and his career will end within a few more years. To risk losing two great young options for a few years of Lou would be equal to, oh I don’t know, dealing away a 20 something year old rising star because you want to resign the 38 year old grizzled vet because he sets a good example?
So, while the debate over whether Lou did enough to help the team win at the deadline, or wasted assets on Tomas Plekanec, or whether or not he should have dealt his pending UFAs rages, I am left wondering if this decision has less to do with the job Lou was doing, and more to do with the fact that the guys below him were simply ready to do his job.
Sounds like a rebuild.
Option #2. Generally accepted as a scouting guru, Mark Hunter is much more than that. He’s a smart executive that will eventually be an NHL general manager. Where and when is the question, not if. Known to be a no nonsense, gruff man, I would have accepted this hire with hopefulness and excitement, just as I have the Dubas hire. I do wonder if the Shanaplan would have changed more drastically though. Mark has always struck me as a guy that will do things his way, whether you like it or not. Sometimes thats a great thing, sometimes it can hurt you.
If they gave Mark the job it would have been much the same as giving Kyle the job in regards to who stays and goes. I’m not convinced Lou Lamoriello would stay on no matter who was appointed GM. He doesn’t appear ready to step into an advisory role, so it’s likely we lost Lou either way.
As for his fellow assistant GMs, it’s likely that if Hunter was giving the GM title another team would have called for Dubas before too long, and this time the Leafs would have had no choice but to let him go.
Lastly we have the man that won the job in the end. A scout at 17 years old, a former player agent, and an honours grad at Brock University’s sports management program. Dubas was GM of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at just 25 years old, assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs at 28 years old, and is now the second youngest GM in the NHL at 32 years old.
Sounds like he was groomed for this
In Dubas, I assume, Shanahan sees an individual that can set the standard for the organization for years to come. He’s been signed to a 5 year contract and that, to me, is showing a ton of confidence in him. A forward thinking, numbers + eye test enthusiast, Kyle seems to be a new age executive that wants to consider all viewpoints before making a decision. He gets a ton of respect from people around the NHL and that’s tough to do at such a young age. I’m happy with the hire but am also conservative with my excitement. He’s unproven, yet everybody has to get their shot somewhere and the Shanaplan has been going well so far, maybe this is simply the next step.
Now that Kyle has been hired the rumours that Lou is on his way out of Toronto have begun. No surprise there. The talk of Mark Hunter being willing to jump ship for his own opportunity has also begun. No surprise there either. My hope would be that both would stay on for another year or more but I suspect Lou will be gone before the draft, while Mark will stay until the right opportunity presents itself.
In short, to me, it all looks like this:
Leave Lou in the position and you lose Dubas and Hunter, and their potentially long and successful careers, before too long. You’d be giving up the careers of those two for just a few years of Lou at the helm. While I love Lou, it seems that moving on from him was the right decision for the long term success of the franchise. Really, in the end, the decision wasn’t between three people, it was between two, Dubas and Hunter.
Hire Mark Hunter and, as stated before, I believe you lose Lou and eventually Dubas.
Hire Dubas and, as we are seeing, you lose Lou and possibly Hunter down the road.
At the end of the day this came down to choosing between a GM with a reputation of being a gruff, no nonsense guy, or a forward thinking young man with the guts to make some big decisions. Shanny chose to go a different route than what we’ve gotten historically. This isn’t a stubborn Irishman, or a “my way or the highway” GM that hates moustaches, this is a different individual than we’ve ever known. For that reason alone I’m willing to give it a try because let’s be realistic, what we’ve been doing for the past 50 years hasn’t been working out that well.