NHL management experience is overblown

First off, let me just start this by saying I think Kyle Dubas should be the next full-time general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. You might disagree, but ask yourself, would you be alright with Shanahan naming himself to that title after what you’ve seen over the last year? If the answer is yes, you should also be okay with Dubas taking over.

Shanahan and Dubas are a force, and the latter has no doubt been the driver behind the Leafs’ balanced and well-thought-out approach since last August. Have you questioned any of the moves the team has made since then? I haven’t. And I just sat through three years of Nonis, so I’m wary of everyone. 

Look, there’s been a lot of words written and junk spewed about how the Leafs can’t go forward without an experienced general manager because…well…you know what? I’m not sure if I’ve seen or heard a sound argument for it besides “Well they just need one.” There are people just throwing ideas in the air like “Oh, these rival GMs are like sharks in the water around the youngster Dubas.” 

Well guess what? A lot of these supposed “sharks” evidently aren’t the brightest hockey minds, so hold up. 

You know who has NHL general manager experience? This guy.

Another person with even more NHL general managing experience and a much, much better track record? This fella below, perhaps known as one of the top executives in the entire league for about a trillion years.

Thanks for the pick and prospect David Poile, maybe next time you deal with the Leafs you can fire up the ol’ internet and figure out WHICH WAY THE PLAYER SHOOTS before trading for him.


The point is, yes, the general manager job in the NHL probably entails a lot more than you or I think it does, but in terms of making the majority of these roster moves, how mysterious can it be? Dubas has shown in the past he’s simply a sharp hockey mind who goes into things with an open approach and is willing to learn and use all tools at his disposal. You can’t ask for more than that. Behind him there’s an army of analysts for crying out loud. There isn’t a general manager in the league who’s going to know something about a player that he doesn’t, at least performance and cap-wise. There just isn’t.

Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Leafs do need someone else in the room, a guy who has that all-important front office experience. I hear Gord Stellick is looking for work. Hell, he’s still GM-ing from home.


Lock it down! The defence rests! No need to look into it any further. Statistics? Scouting? Forget all that shit. 

Stellick, like Nonis or Milbury or whoever, has general manager experience at the NHL level. With the Leafs, no less. Should he run a team? Just think about how insane that would be.

But seriously, Kyle Dubas has been with the Leafs for almost a year and it’s the first time I can remember them making much sense since the lockout. No, not 2013, the one before that. There’s absolutely no reason to believe he, with the backing of Shanahan and/or Hunter, is going to get swindled or tricked or fleeced by any general manager league-wide. There’s simply nothing to suggest it.

If this summer goes down as a disaster and the Leafs make a boatload of mistakes, crippling the rebuild and sending us back to the darkest times of Nonis, come back here and call me an idiot. Do it now if you want. But as far as I’m concerned the Leafs aren’t in need of a general manager with NHL experience. Dubas has said all the right things to indicate he’s smart enough, and if anything, it’s rival managers who should be making sure they do all their preparation and research before dealing with him, or else they might soon be out of a job and taking data management courses from Gord Stellick. 

The defence rests!

  • Gary Empey

    The only right winger under contract with the Leafs at the moment is Phil Kessel. If he is traded as expected, I hope someone notices before training camp.

  • Gary Empey

    Ryan, great article and an excellent read on Dubas. I keep harping to anyone who will listen, and even those who won’t, that the management team that Shanahan has assembled is the most competent I have witnessed in years. A perfect example? No leaks or rumours.
    A day before the Babcock announcement, every reporter in Toronto was preaching we were not going to get him and it was for the best. Good luck in Buffalo Mike… Enjoying that egg on your faces sports media windbags? I love it.

  • Bob Canuck

    Hockey fans should be thankful that Gord Stellick, blessed with a brilliant hockey mind, has chosen to use his talents and insight for hockey analysis and not NHL management.

    As a matter of fact, hockey fans should feel guilty that one who consistently demonstrates such intellectual rigor does not devote himself to a field such as medical research or quantum mechanics.

    The reality is that we hockey fans are too focused on hockey and forget that there are more important things in life. It’s like living in Toronto and thinking that there is nothing beyond the Belleville border.

  • turpenoids

    That logic just doesn’t add up for me. Would be nice to have him under someone’s wing as assistant GM for a little while… Someone like McCrimmon… To bad he didn’t come thru. Dubas is just too young and inexperienced to take over a symbolic, rebuilding NHL team right now. Smarts don’t come with experience and we shouldn’t be gambling. We don’t need to rush into a GM yet.

    • turpenoids

      You’re right, they haven’t fixed this team yet, but I think you can point to a lot of decisions that show they’re on the right track.

      You could make a pretty good argument that the previous regime was well on its way to running Gardiner and Kadri out of town the way they did Graboavski and that pretty much stopped when Dubas came on.

      As a fan I usually feel optimistic, this group actually has me feeling confident.

  • Bob Canuck

    Of course, a lot of what we liked over the last 10 months was done with Nonis as the front man. Much as I thought Nonis had to go — that his record of signings, buy-outs, and re-signings should disqualify him from having a hand in overhauling the roster — I do think he showed last season that he was useful in trading players for futures. Whether or not it was his idea to package Franson and Santorelli, move Winnik, or swap Clarkson for Horton, he did work the phones to get those done.

    I’m sure Dubas is bright enough to assess pro talent and see what fair value is, but I do wonder whether Nonis’s membership in the old boys’ club wouldn’t be helpful in getting deals for Phaneuf, Lupul, Bozak, maybe Kessel consummated in the short timeframe they’ve got before the draft.

    • turpenoids

      Yes, Nonis was the front man then they cut the puppets strings and showed him the door.
      It was disappointing Shanahan took a year to evaluate everything, from management, scouting to the players but as he said, he wanted to see the dysfunction for himself. He gave Nonis, Carlyle and the players the opportunity to show “potential” and they all failed miserably.

      Dubas is capable, especially since even wearing the GM title, he will continue to be part of a management group. the Maple Leafs are constructing a new “Management Model” and whether it succeeds remains to be seen however based upon the moves to date, I have confidence and optimism.

  • Bob Canuck

    I’d be happy with Dubas as GM. The Leafs have made nothing but good decisions since his hire and the more I hear him talk hockey the more confidence I have in his ability and knowledge.

    I have two concerns though when it come to the team naming a GM.

    1 – Will bringing in an experienced guy ruin a dynamic that seems to be working so far? Will the new guy be willing to buy into a philosophy that seems to come straight from Dubas?

    2- If Dubas was named GM would Hunter be willing to work under him? I’ve seen it suggested he wouldn’t, though I don’t recall where and I’m not sure how credible the source was. I sure wouldn’t want to lose him, I have no doubt that Hunter will find guys who can play.

    The decisions coming from Leafs management seem to be good and if I wouldn’t want to mess with what seems to be the most competent front office I can remember in Toronto. On the other hand, if it’s necessary to bring in someone else to keep this group working, by all means do it.

  • STAN

    If you read Jonas Siegal’s Q & A with Mark Hunter you will not be enlightened about hockey, the draft, talent or the Leafs. Hunter said nothing that everybody hasn’t heard since time immemorial.

    Worse was his absolute lack of language skills. You can pratically hear the grunting when reading his non-insightful answers.

    At least Dubas carries and expresses himself like a coherent, intelligent executive. So make him GM and let Hunter direct scouting player personnel.

  • STAN

    It is a lot of what we have been reading lately, the Leafs are going to manage by committee then in the next sentence it is where is the experienced GM? The talking heads have to get it into their head just what management by committee means, it is you do not need a traditional GM because you are making the decision at a board table with other input and that has worked rather well in my humble opinion over the last year. Nonis was only kept to make sure the transition worked out well and Dubas and Hunter are smart enough to pick up the management portfolio in a year, after all they do know hockey talent. It is just getting to know the old boys club a bit.

  • SEER

    Well Ryan… Nice to see some gonads in your words about Dubas, but I could have done without the one word in your first sentence after the Stellick tweets.. Thought the rules said to post as if your Mom is looking over your shoulder..? Just my opinion..

    Hey… I’m in my late 50’s.. and I am also TOTALLY in favor of Dubas being the GM…

    Why..?

    I’m originally a northern boy like Kyle.. and grew up not that far away from his hometown… His grandfather coached the Greyhounds in the 60’s…; then his father was also involved with them… Both men did a lot of good for that team…

    Kyle was always around hockey… and worked lower level jobs with the greyhounds, in his childhood…

    Not sure if everyone knows this, but….

    … Kyle was a scout for the Hounds, while studying Sports Management at Brock Univ., in his late teens… He was hired as their GM at the ripe, young age of 24… and was known around the whole CHL as one of best guys at assessing prospects and young rookies… (not everyone will admit this, due to that “old boys school” you referred to.. and their own egos)…

    He also hired Sheldon Keefe as Coach for the Greyhounds… They have had great success under him…

    This is actually the “purr-r-r-r-r-fect” timing to bring him into the role, as he has knowledge of everyone new in the Leafs system.. My friends up north refer to him as a young Einstein, as far as the world of hockey goes… His reputation professionally and personally is that of someone many years older, who has his ego in check.. and doesn’t let things get to him… An “old soul” in a young man’s body…

    And to be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I want to see anymore of those “old school boys” involved with making Leaf decisions anymore… For obvious reasons.. and for reasons not discussed …

  • FlareKnight

    The irony here is that the Leafs and Shanahan are still looking for a GM candidate outside this group. If we are supposed to have so much faith in him….then why don’t we have faith in the idea that we should hire another guy into the mix?