Perhaps the weirdest part of all that’s gone on with the Leafs over the last few weeks has been the reaction to it from the larger media outlets and a pretty sizeable portion of the fanbase. This should go on a long list of reasons why, for all the griping fans from other teams do over Toronto getting the most attention and airplay, let me assure you this doesn’t equate to competence in assessing what’s happening big-picture with this team.
The decisions around Kyle Dubas’ promotion to general manager and the prompt departure of both Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter seems to have jumped up and slapped some of the Toronto media contingent square in the chops. Not only that, we’re also left with takes about the latter two that seem to vastly overrate the effects of their leaving (and I say that as someone who liked them both quite a lot).
— Leafs Lunch (@LeafsLunch1050) May 22, 2018
I had one agent tell me this is a firestorm of Brendan Shanahan’s creation. Could still have Lou as GM with Dubas and Hunter under him. Could have left things as they were, and had to know events would play out this way.
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) May 22, 2018
For one thing, Shanahan blatantly said this afternoon that Hunter offered to stick around for the upcoming draft and the existing management group was like “Nah”. And as for the second quote, good lord, “firestorm”? How much simpler and smoother could this whole process have gone? Not only that, how much more telegraphed could it have been? It was all out there.
Here’s a timeline of the last four years in the Leafs’ management realm, in case you missed it (which I know you didn’t):
2014 – Kyle Dubas, an increasingly talked-about rising star from the junior hockey ranks gets hired by Shanahan because, well, he’s a rising star.
Next – Mark Hunter, another junior hockey guy, is brought aboard after a conversation that I assume went like this: “You and Dubas turn this thing around and one of you will likely get the GM job, and the other at least gets their foot in the door for one elsewhere”
Next – Lou Lamoriello, at 73 years young, is hired as a pretty obvious stop-gap and mentor while this little audition plays out.
Now – Dubas finally gets the Leafs job, the audition and mentorship are over, and that’s that. Bye Lou and Mark, we all knew this was the plan.
Except somehow everyone didn’t know this was the plan, apparently. There’s been a lot of conversation – and I’m likely weighing social media too heavily here – about how this juggling act could’ve continued to go on, or how perhaps Hunter or Lamoriello were hard done by. I mean, maybe this could have carried on for another season if Shanahan really wanted it to, but the sharks have been circling the boat for a couple summers now, trying to nab Dubas (and who knows, perhaps Hunter too?) for general manager jobs elsewhere. The timing for this was right, and it was anything but surprising.
We knew this was the way it had to play out.
One thing that’s been a hallmark of Shanahan’s tenure to this point is that, even while Lamoriello brought in a cone of silence management-down, Brendan has always been up front and clear with fans about expectations, the long-term outlook of the team, and even the potential optics of his decision-making. And he’s done that through this whole process, going back four years when Dubas initially hopped on board, basically laying out step-by-step how this would work and who would most-likely get the keys to this team to take it to the next phase. For all of those reasons, the way this scenario has unfolded over the past month should only shock or confuse those who weren’t paying attention.