At about 7:30 AM, my eyes opened to the tune of “Jeff, wake up, I got an alert from TheScore”. It was noted living human being, girlfriend haver, and TheLeafsNation writer Cam Charron, whose couch I’ve been sleeping on during my several bonus days in Vancouver (I head back home late tonight). “(Dave) Poulin and (Claude) Loiselle have been fired and the Leafs hired Kyle Dubas.”
I thought he was kidding at first, but he was very much serious. In my initial assumption, lies the very reason for my excitement.
Before I go further with this, I would like to say that I wish Poulin and Loiselle all the best in their future endeavours. Poulin’s role over the last couple of years saw him directly involved with the Toronto Marlies, and while I rarely require to speak to anybody above the coaching staff, my interactions with Poulin have been all been positive, and he’s been more than candid in his thoughts with me, even before I was credentialed with the team. Loiselle once told my brother to sit down and shut up at a game, and for that, he has my respect and admiration.
With those things said, their departures are in the best interests in the Leafs organization moving forward. I’m not inherently against “old-school” mentalities existing in the National Hockey League; it’s going to be a long time until we fully escape them, and having multiple perspectives and stances in a room tends to lead to the best final output, if only for the fact that wanting to win an argument means you’ll try harder to make good and logical points. But despite the mess of a team that we saw on the ice, there wasn’t much argument in the offices. The staff carried a one-dimensional viewpoint, that just happened to be a bad one.
It showed in very public fashion, too. “We’re winning more than we were before, I don’t know why you’re complaining” was the frequent radio mantra. Rather than admit that the team had trouble controlling the momentum on the ice, these two countered by suggesting the team were victims of self-fulfilling prophecy, suggesting that other teams were dominating because the Leafs had a reputation of being dominated. There’s piles of flat out confusing quotes by the two, which would be excusable if there was any evidence of pro-active change.
Today, we saw evidence. It was in their departure.
I’m not going to claim that I’ve got the inside scoop on Kyle Dubas’ come up. I know about as much as everybody is scrambling to figure out today – junior hockey isn’t my strong hand. But it’s quite obvious that in him, we’re looking at the next generation of NHL executive. Not strictly a numbers man; that would be just as bad as ignoring statistics all together, but somebody who blends analysis with analytics. Somebody who isn’t scared to take multiple points of view, some that aren’t already part of his rotation, and use them to gain as much information of data.
Eventually he’ll be the norm. In the mean time, guys like him are disruptive to a changing front office culture. That’s exactly what a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs needs right now. He’s the maybe-not in a group that has become a collaborative group of yes men. Maybe that little bit of second guessing is enough to get guys like Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle in the right direction? Neither would have gotten this far without being intelligent; maybe a bit of push back from someone who they actually work with is all they need to get in the right direction?
If not, one now has a highly regarded young talent breathing down his back, while the other has two head coaches to his side. The leash is short, and it’s attached to a choke collar. Between the hirings and firings this month has brought, and the bolstering of the team’s depth players, it’s hard not to say that the Leafs aren’t in better shape than they were just a couple of months ago.