With Lamoriello and Hunter gone from the Leafs organization it’s time to start figuring out who are the ideal people to fill the vacancies. The name that seems to be out there the most is Ron Francis. That’s great, and I think in all likelihood the Leafs will have serious discussions with him about whether or not he’s interested, although moving from a GM position to an Assistant GM position may be a tough sell for a guy who has had the big office, and probably is doing well enough financially that he doesn’t need to take the first job offered to him. Nevertheless the perception is that he would work well with Kyle Dubas and that’s someone to consider.
Not considering any relationships between Dubas and candidates, I have a different name that has popped into my head as an ideal candidate and he’s a bit of a blast from the past from the Burke administration. Don’t worry, I am not suggesting Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin, Claude Loiselle, or any of the other names that, I’m talking of Steve Staios. The former Development Adviser turned Player Development Manager, turned Assistant Coach.
- Let’s start with the low hanging fruit here, and that’s that Staios checks the “played the game” box on the hockeyman scorecard. He brings an understanding of what it’s like on the ice at the NHL level, and fairly recently too. Having experience playing the game in the lockout era gives him a great understanding of what needs to be done to succeed
- You can pretty much check off that proven winner box too. As president/GM of the Hamilton Bulldogs he has won the OHL Championship and taken the team to the Memorial Cup in his 3rd season as boss, and the 3rd season the team has been located in Hamilton. That’s not too shabby.
- Looking at the in between stuff (the Leafs stuff) on Staios’ resume, you’ve got player development work, including working with current Director of Player Development, Scott Pellerin. Given that the Marlies and player development are going to be a full time job that is too much for a GM to reasonably absorb into their own portfolio, this seems like an ideal area for Staios to step in. Basically Dubas can replace Dubas with Staios, and we’ll worry about who replaces Hunter later.
- Staios, in my opinion, wouldn’t be the replacement for Hunter, but there’s no doubt that being involved in junior hockey for the past three seasons has certainly given Staios a strong opinion of who he likes in the draft. A new voice, and quite possibly a differing opinion might be a welcome asset in the Leafs front office.
- Staios is another up and comer, like Dubas. Steve is only six years removed from his last game in the NHL, and since then has had progressively more responsible roles in hockey. He’s by no means ready to run an NHL team, but he’s ready for a look as an assistant GM.
Why Not Staios?
This comes down to the simple fact of experience. Staios would be new to this level of responsibility at the same time that Dubas is new to his role. Personally I could see the level of comfort in that for Kyle Dubas, but I can see where Brendan Shanahan might strongly encourage Dubas to add someone with years of wisdom to his staff to help with any life lessons that Lamoriello didn’t get a chance to instill in him yet. I’m not sure I fully agree with this reasoning, but can understand how this would be one the drawbacks to looking at Staios as an option.
Do We Know if Staios Even Wants to Leave the Bulldogs?
No. He’s just an interesting candidate, in my opinion. He seems like he’d fill a need within the organization, and it’s an advancement and likely pay increase for Staios, so I think he’d consider it at the very least.
What Is the Relationship Like Between Staios and the Leafs?
From this CBC article we can assume that Shanahan was one of the voices encouraging Staios to pursue the GM role with the Bulldogs:
“He [Shanahan] had some pretty funny comments. But basically he told me I’d be an idiot if I didn’t take this chance,” Staios said as he was introduced as the team’s president Friday morning.
Here’s Staios on his time with the Leafs:
“I had a good relationship with Brendan Shanahan, (director of player personnel) Mark Hunter and (assistant general manager) Kyle Dubas and the development model was really starting to take shape, so I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish,” Staios said. “We have some structure there we feel like it’s a seamless transition now, me moving out and Scott Pellerin who was my assistant manager he’s going to move into my spot.”
“It would have been an interesting run in Toronto for the next three to five years with development probably being at the top of the list with that group, with the rebuild in the future … But this is as good of a situation for me to be in.”
Dubas on Staios:
“In the Leafs organization, he was brought in to teach some of the younger players on the blue line, specifically Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, following great results working with first round pick Stuart Percy as a player development advisor.”
So ignoring the “great results” with Stuart Percy, that seems pretty good.
Who knows if this could happen. Would I like to see it? The answer is yes. I think Staios’ experience makes him an asset for Dubas. I think hard working, try hard player with a commitment to fitness is the kind of comfort food that Mike Babcock would want to be around as well, especially the one he’d want delivering the conversations about development. The Leafs have over 50 years of history that show when they try and do things the old way, they lose and like Dubas, Staios is a guy that gets them doing things a newer way
Since MLSE has more money than God, it seems reasonable that they could bring in Steve Staios and still be able to address other front office needs that may exist as well. Why not add Staios, Ron Francis, and find a new draft specialist? For now, I’ll just say they should probably try to hire Steve.