Friedman reveals Mike Babcock influenced Kyle Dubas’ promotion to Leafs GM

Filipe Dimas
8 months ago
Earlier this week, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman revealed some additional insights into Kyle Dubas’ promotion to General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from his previous Assistant GM role. 
During a discussion on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Friedman stated that after the Toronto Maple Leafs disallowed an attempt by the Colorado Avalanche to poach Kyle Dubas for their own GM job back in May of 2017, then-coach Mike Babcock told Maple Leafs senior management that if they’re going to do that, they have to promote him to General Manager in Toronto. One year later, Lamoriello’s contract was let expire and Dubas was promoted to the role that he held onto for five seasons. 
The discussion occurred during a segment about the Edmonton Oilers hiring Kris Knoblauch away from the New York Rangers, where he was head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack. It was suggested that since the Rangers were performing well under head coach Peter Laviolette, there was no path for Knoblauch to get promoted internally, and thus, he was allowed to leave for Edmonton. 
Despite what one may think of Kyle Dubas’ performance as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s interesting to learn that the team not only held him in high enough regard that they blocked another team from poaching a then-assistant, but coach Mike Babcock himself insisted that the team prioritize promoting Dubas. Whether that was the intention all along, or if Shanahan and company intended to extend Lamoriello, seeing Dubas as a potential replacement when Lamoriello eventually retires is unknown.
The news may even come as a shock to some, especially when considering the rather public disagreements that Babcock and Dubas often engaged in. For those who don’t recall the dramatics (or have chosen to repress their memories of that era), Mike Babcock routinely seemed to take shots at Dubas’ roster construction. The controversial coach would insist the team needs more depth, seemed to lament the acquiring of left-handed Jake Muzzin instead of a right handed shot, and refused to play many of Dubas’ acquisitions, famously leading to a cold war of sorts where Justin Holl was healthy-scratched a mind-boggling 71 times in a season due to Babcock’s refusal to play him and Dubas’ refusal to put the defenceman on waivers.
In total, the Dubas-Babcock GM-Coach partnership lasted a hair over 18 months, with Dubas getting promoted on May 11 2018, and then firing Babcock on November 20, 2019. Depending how deep into the butterfly effect and chaos theory you want to dive, there may be a reality where Babcock never suggests Dubas gets promoted and thus remains Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs to this day. 
With both men now out of the organization, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been. If Dubas goes to Colorado does Lamoriello stay as General Manager instead of leaving for New York? Or does former Assistant GM Mark Hunter get promoted instead? Do either of those GMs sign the core four to friendlier contracts, or would they have been the one to give Jack Campbell $5 million a year instead of walking away like Dubas did? Does Mike Babcock enjoy postseason success with a General Manager who better aligns with his team building philosophies? Does Sheldon Keefe remain with the Marlies or get poached by another NHL club?
Sports are full of what ifs, and Toronto fans just got yet another to ponder over. Just like someone who goes through a bad breakup, Kyle Dubas seems to have left Leafs fans to remember the good, the bad, and wondering how things may have been different.

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