-41G 92P in 79 GP
-61.5% 5v5 GF
-53.2% Expecte GF
-Scored 2.7 P/60
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) September 23, 2019
We all knew this day was coming. The Brayden Point contract seemed destined to make the Mitch Marner contract look horrific. That’s not to say that Marner is at fault for getting his, and that’s not to say that Marner isn’t a player in the same caliber of Point. Both are true. This is not a post bashing Mitch Marner.
The thing is the Leafs paid a lot more than what any of the other comparables are out there, with the exception of the one they created for themselves with the Auston Matthews contract. That’s not to say I’m not thrilled that both Matthews and Marner are Leafs, they’re both great.
The point here is that Kyle Dubas is likely going to always leave us wanting when it comes to contracts. And as painful as that may be, it still doesn’t make him a bad GM.
This is a positive post
To get at the positive points of this post, we’re going to have to wade through some negatively perceived events. Contract wise, Marner, Matthews, Nylander, and Tavares were all paid a lot. Even Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen were compensated on the high end of what people are comfortable with. There aren’t hometown discounts here, and in fact, it seems like Dubas is quite comfortable with rewarding the players who have played their best for him.
You could also say that Dubas doesn’t exactly fleece anyone when it comes to trades. Unloading Marleau with a 1st was a big price to pay, but necessary. Trading Kadri so the Leafs could add Barrie and Kerfoot wasn’t a small deal either, and might be as close as he comes to a lopsided trade, but there is no doubt a high price was paid. The price of trading Zaitsev meant the Leafs added Ceci. Trading for Muzzin cost the Leafs two solid prospects and a first round pick. That being said, most of these trades were made to address the most pressing needs of the time.
Kyle Dubas might not be a negotiator, but that doesn’t change he’s the most competent GM the Leafs have had since the early 90s iteration of Cliff Fletcher.
Kyle Dubas is about vision
(You could say “The Process” but I think vision is ultimately more what we’re seeing)
Dubas seems to have a vision of how this team needs to fit together. The Leafs require a core of the best talent money can buy, and they’ve established that in their top six forwards, and have moved encouragingly in that direction on defense. Additionally the next tier of talent comes from up and comers, often on entry level contracts who are playing beyond their pay. Travis Dermott, when he returns, is a current player who helps stir the Leafs drink. Rasmus Sandin as another ELC defender could help push the blueline over the top, and affordable talent like Hyman, Mikheyev, and even Kapanen, Johnsson, and Kerfoot, although they are slightly more expensive, all fill out the roster in a meaningful way. It leaves very few spots at the bottom for finding replacement level players who can play beyond their means.
That’s where we see the expanded battle of the waiver wire warriors right now. Seemingly half of the Leafs training camp is competing for two fourth line forward positions and one depth defense role. The candidates are all carefully selected replacement level players that the Leafs hope to see thrive in their system, and it seems that most of the players are different enough from each other that the hope is the right fits can be found. It’s not a coincidence that this is playing out like this, in fact most of what we’ve seen from Dubas has likely been purposeful and what comes next is always considered.
Dubas knows he’s going two years without a first round pick, but he also knows that there is time between the end of season and the draft to remedy that, if he’s comfortable moving on from one of his roster players. He knows that he has a number of free agent defensemen, but he also knows Dermott, Sandin, and Liljegren represent the future of the position for the Leafs, and back filling even his more talented players will largely be an in house move, but with enough cap space to make a play for at least one of his key players or to pursue someone external.
Generally speaking is better than analysis like this…
Three rather equal elite young players: Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Charlie McAvoy.
Point: 3 years, 19.5 million
McAvoy: 3 years, $14.7 million
Marner: 6 years, $65 million
Good thing the Leafs have the Boy Wonder GM
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) September 23, 2019
That’s not to say that…
- The Lightning got a hell of a deal and seem to be competently run
- The Bruins got a hell of a deal and will still make the first round of the playoffs a living nightmare
- That Kyle Dubas’ vision for the Leafs would be further along if he was a little tougher on negotiations.
The moral of the story here is simple. Criticism is fair. Things could have gone better, but along with the criticism should come the appreciation that this is one of the best Leafs rosters a generation of fans have seen and he’s played a significant role in it’s assembly and keeping it together. It seems like most of the organization has bought into the vision, but there is still some push back coming from the head coach on some of the personnel. That’s okay too, as long as their relationship is a constructive one and there’s enough buy-in to work through it.
This ends my appeal to authority that has left me feeling nauseous. It’s a strange sensation after Lamoriello, Nonis, Burke, Fletcher, and Ferguson to feel like things are okay and might even get better.