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Kyle Dubas is out, what’s next for the Leafs?: Leaflets

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Jon Steitzer
9 months ago
The Friday news dump before a long weekend is rarely a good thing. I mean if you are one of the Leafs fans who didn’t think that Kyle Dubas improved this team over his tenure, maybe you have a very different take than I do, but I stand by the fact that evidence clearly points to you being wrong and I’m right.
Whether it was Kyle that left or it was the Leafs deciding not to renew his contract, it remains to be seen. It could simply be that Kyle Dubas wanted to take more time to make his decision and the Leafs wanted to have their front office sorted out sooner rather than later. No matter what, the summer just got a lot crazier and here are some thoughts on just a handful of things that will require the attention of a new GM in the next month.

Develop a draft strategy

Under Kyle Dubas, the Leafs were a team that consistently traded down in the draft. The 2023 draft is one that argues that teams should attempt to do the opposite as there are a number of high end players that might be capable of joining NHL rosters this season at the top of the draft and as much as I appreciated Dubas’ tenure, the looming graduation of Matthew Knies to the NHL is leaving the prospect cupboard a little bare on high end players.
Whatever happens for the Leafs heading into the draft they will be working off the draft list that has already been built and that is a good thing.
What remains to be seen is if the Leafs double down on winning now and see the Bruins 1st as additional trade currency. Do the Leafs and their new GM look at the 2023-24 as a season that will be a bit of a reset and push for more picks while reestablishing the direction under a new leader, or do we see someone who has a radically different approach to Dubas and since you can’t teach size, Toronto goes big and puts additional trust in the player development department.
Everything seems like it is about having more questions than answers at this point, but the one thing I would like to see more of is the Leafs looking to draft centers.

What about the coach?

It’s very interesting that almost instantly after Kyle Dubas was let go, Ryan Hardy felt comfortable canning the Marlies coaching staff. I wonder if this was in the works beforehand, but I think it also speaks to Hardy definitely having some job security and the organization agreeing with that direction. The fact that Sheldon Keefe wasn’t immediately let go at the time of the Dubas announcement was interesting. Keefe took a lot of the blame (rightfully, in my opinion) for the Leafs playoff struggles and it is a bit of a surprise that Shanahan is leaving it to the new GM to make up his mind on Keefe.
In some ways this makes sense. Keefe has bought into playing the players Dubas brings in the way Dubas intended for them to play and that could be a mindset that would work under a new GM as well. Maybe there is some appeal in having a coach on a short leash heading into a contract year. Maybe it’s just that there is a lack of confidence that any other candidates would be a better fit.
On the other hand, it still seems like Keefe will be gone before next season.

The Matthews situation might be overblown

There seems to be a pretty defined narrative that Auston Matthews would re-sign with the Leafs easier under Kyle Dubas. That was probably true. Kyle seems to get to actual player value a lot quicker than other GMs that excessively penny pinch. Will Auston Matthews consider moving on just because Kyle Dubas did? Probably not.
There are a lot of other things that could contribute to Matthews wanting to move on. If he doesn’t like a new GM blowing up a roster of guys he likes playing with. If there isn’t any communication with him around coaching and personnel that are fits for him, and if he’s not given to ring the bell as the NHL’s highest cap hit then we probably see him pursue other options.
On the other hand, if you are a new GM and the first thing you do is screw up the Matthews situation in Toronto you’ve dug yourself one hell of a hole. It seems like a lock that Auston will be back.
That’s really just scratching the surface of what’s coming up. The Leafs have 10 Unrestricted Free Agents on their roster, their starting goaltender is also a free agent, and their most expensive goaltender is likely needing a buyout. The Nylander extension, while not as important as the Matthews one, is going to be a lot of work as well, and there is no denying that any major roster overhaul is best accomplished prior to the draft, which takes place in five weeks.
It’s starting to seem like they should have just paid Dubas the extra cash.

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