Leafs shake up front office, hire stats Hound Dubas (seriously)

kyle dubas picture

I was wondering when the first NHL team would jump on Kyle Dubas, the young Ontario Hockey League general manager who has turned around the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds program since his arrival. The Greyhounds have redefined the way they look for talent through the draft and how they break down player performance.

I did not think it would ever be the Toronto Maple Leafs, but this is apparently that new world.

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There’s something in Dubas for everybody, no matter your hockey stripe. He was a scout at 17 when he was attending Brock University—with deep family ties to the Soo organization. At 25, he was the youngest general manager in junior hockey and tasked with rebuilding a once-great Greyhounds organization. He’s a bit of a baseball geek, like the average Internet stathound, and has frequently talked up the benefits of puck possession numbers on the radio. Neat-o!

This past season, his third with the organization, the Greyhounds won 44 games, competing in a very difficult Conference. To get an indication of how Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe work with their players, take a look at a recent post at Canucks Army, where Dubas opened up a bit about recent Canucks first round pick Jared McCann:

Jared was deployed in the role of a top line centre. His offensive zone start rate was the 4th lowest on our team at 56% offensive zone starts (behind just Jean Dupuy, Patrick Watling and Tyler Gaudet). He played versus the oppositions 1st or 2nd line. Tyler Gaudet was voted the best defensive centre in the league in the OHL Coaches vote so at home Sheldon would often deploy Gaudet versus the opposition’s best line, and on the road that duty would fall on Jared as coaches tried to free their best players from playing versus Gaudet, who was a 20 year old. Jared, as just a 17 year did an excellent job in that regard, as his possession numbers illustrate.

Wait, that’s not a thing that a “hockey man” typically says. Which is what I tend to like about Dubas. He’s very active in the Internet statistical commentary, for one, but he won’t actually apply the latest trends to his work unless he sees a useful market application.

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Dubas said some words via the Hounds press release:

“This announcement today is one that brings very mixed emotions for me. Certainly, I am excited by the massive opportunity that the Toronto Maple Leafs have afforded me. However, with that comes leaving a team and group of people that have an impact on me that is special that it is truly difficult to put into words” began Dubas.

“One of the most important elements of this decision for me was the fact that the staff and group of players with the Greyhounds are just a fabulous team and will be able to carry on the current course in a seamless manner. I’m also very excited about working with the Board of Directors over the short-term future to properly transition the team.”

It’s been a big summer for him. Dubas, like everybody it seems, got married earlier this month in Mexico, and his Seattle Mariners have held on to the final American League wild card spot and we’re already in late July. Now he gets hired by the biggest team in hockey in a very key role.

Is this the new Toronto Maple Leafs? The team recently made a good coaching hire, played hardball with David Bolland, drafted William Nylander, and now have a guy in their boardroom who at least is willing to work with the theory that Nazem Kadri might be better than Tyler Bozak.

There’s also the fact that Toronto let go of Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle, while will make @Hope_Smoke‘s Twitter page a little less painful to read. Ultimately, the Leafs brought in a guy who once said “so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to build a team that always has the puck” to replace a guy who said “time of possession is something that’s interesting as well. The bottom line is wins and losses. That is the bottom line.”

The Leafs may not be a good hockey team next year. But I think they have a couple of guys there now, with Shanahan and Dubas, who can commit to the process and recognize there may be a better way to do things an an edge to exploit. This is a fantastic hiring for Toronto.

UPDATE – I should add that we should wait for the other domino to fall. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Keefe follow Dubas to the Leafs organization, whether that means an assistant role with the Toronto Marlies or the Maple Leafs.

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  • Back in Black

    I hate this Dumbas character. First he says that advanced stats are primitive. Give me a break. This guy is just a smoother talker then “shot quality” Poulin and Loiselle.

    Second this is simply scapegoating the GMs to appease the masses. Carlyle, Nonis and very likely Leiweke need to be eliminated to better implement the culture change at the top.

    Third – Grabovski is already gone from the leafs who is puck possession super star. This hiring does nothing for me.

    Fourth this organization extended carlyle. EXTENDED Carlyle. Nothing can be remedied until Carlyle is gone.

    Nothing more then chair shuffing on the titantic. People are excited about their new lounge chair but fail to realize the leafs are sinking because they have gapping hole in their vessel.

    • STAN

      I was going to retort to this idiocy but then I saw the “PPP” reader part.

      If you enjoy the writings of that site then you’re already too far gone to save….

      • Back in Black

        I gather it’s meant to indicate that the comment was intended as parody (although generally parody is funny). Rather far off the mark: PPP is doing backflips in celebration today.

  • STAN

    This was clearly a Shanahan move, with no resistance from Nonis because, as mentioned above, Nonis is a virtual dead man walking. I would bet that MLSE is already looking for a way to buy out the rest of that stupid extension Nonis got from Leiweke after the half season success of 2013.

    Dubas will be the next GM, probably by 2016, if not sooner.

    The real question is how will Shanahan-Dubas ice a far better team with so many albatross contracts for mediocre players that Nonis has laid on the organization.

  • STAN

    duybas is an advanced stats guy, however he did pull off the worst trade in ohl history, sending a boatload of assets to the spits for jack campbell who was a bust in the soo silks.

  • CMpuck

    If nothing else I hope this ends the IHC chirping of the idiocy of MLSE for not privileging advance stats.

    You have your representation on the management team now, we’ll see if someone who bookmarked extraskater.com will make an impact, I’m not holding by breath.

  • Back in Black

    There is an addtional advantage to this move.

    David Broll will get a fair chance over the next few years.

    I think it means Colton Orr is all but done and perhaps McLaren too.

    David Broll was good enought to be part of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds that were managed by Kyle Dubas and on that team he played lots of minutes and put up 54 points in his final year.

    Kyle Dubas might have even scouted Broll and been behind Broll’s trade from Erie.

    I would love to hear what Kyle Dubas has to say about Broll. Perhaps his statisitcal analysis revealed that unlike many enforcers, Broll can actually play hockey.

    I am quite sure that Kyle Dubas would prefer his guy, Broll (who is a tough guy that can actually play) over the pure face puncher, Colton Orr.

      • I didn’t realize it was Dubas in that interview. For those that missed it, here is what Dubas said about Broll:

        “”A lot of people attempt to cast David as solely someone who will make the NHL as a 4th line enforcer, when the truth he was one of our top possession players throughout this past season. David played both centre and wing for our hockey club at times and the majority of his minutes played at even strength came versus the opponents top 6 forwards. His contributions in the offensive end are not always appreciated because his driving of play does not always result in goals, but coming versus the opposition’s top players we prefer to play in the offensive zone and David proved to be very reliable in attaining this goal.

        Also from your article:

        “When I first sent Dubas a message to solicit a little bit of Broll info, I immediately got the reply “elite possession driver”.

        “elite possession driver”?

        In light of todays events, an enforcer who is an “elite possession driver” sounds pretty cool.

  • I don’t know much about this guy, not sure how to feel about the move.

    It seems like a step in the right direction but I’m wondering if this guy was brought in to aid Nonis or to replace him.

    I thought the same thing too DP, it’s Brolldozer time.

  • The hiring of Shanahan made me cautiously optimistic about the future of the Leafs. This move makes me ecstatic. Not because of Dubas specifically but the clear indication of where Shanahan is going. Which is THE RIGHT DIRECTION!!!!

    I don’t care if the Leafs suck and miss the playoffs the next two years. If Shanahan is able to turn into a modern hockey operation, I see a cup within ten years. If you want to see a modern hockey operation, look at the Western Conference. Not just CHI and LAK but also ANA, SJS, DAL, MN, etc

    Remember that in 2004, ESPN named the Chicago Blackhawks the worst franchise in all of North American professional sports. I would say that situation has been turned around rather emphatically. It helps to get Toews and Kane in consecutive drafts but Chicago also built the organization required to win. That is what the Leafs have to do.

  • STAN

    It really appears that Shanahan is the boss and is saying so by the assistants he put in place and now by a stats guy for evaluation into management to aid Nonis. To me this is an attempt to bring in guys to help(push) the present coach and general manager. All that is needed now is for them to hire me an assistant to bring me up to date in how to read charts and data sheets.