Heir to the Chair: Kyle Dubas Named 17th GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs

32-year-old Becomes the Third-Youngest General Manager in Franchise History

By: Gordon Brown

Friday, May 11, 2018

Heir to the Chair

So, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally announced their candidate of choice and successor to Lou Lamoriello in the General Manager’s role.

What were you doing at 32-years-old? No matter who you are, I can assure that you weren’t making roster decisions for one of the NHL’s most storied and historic franchises. 

Kyle Dubas can officially say he’s doing just that as the 17th GM in franchise history.

Although there is a pair of exceptions in both Gord Stellick (30), who was once the youngest General Manager in NHL history, and the legendary Conn Smythe (32), Dubas is now anointed as the third youngest GM in the franchises 100-year history.

Few teams have been graced by his presence and direction, but those who have, have progressed with sustained success. His products include the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Toronto Marlies, both of which can be seen as a testament to his seemingly generational school of thought.

Whiz Kid

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Dubas was hired as a scout at 17-years-old and in 2011, named General Manager of his hometown Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League at the ripe age of 25-years-old—becoming the second youngest GM in OHL history. Sure enough, the beloved Greyhounds he inherited sat dead last (10th) in the Western Conference and 17th overall, in a league where only four teams miss the playoffs. 

Despite immense skepticism and growing pain, the Greyhounds showed signs of improvement early on under Dubas’ direction despite missing the playoffs for a second straight season. In his inaugural season, the team saw an 8-point improvement from 2010-11 which did little to appease a struggling fanbase—but their time was still to come.

The 2012-13 season, his second year in office, saw a drastic improvement in that regard as Sault Ste. Marie propelled themselves into 6th in the Western Conference before an eventual loss in the Conference Quarterfinals.

It was at this time that the franchise truly took a step towards prominence in such a renowned league.

Subsequently, the Greyhounds continued their upward trend in 2013-14 as the league moved from two conferences to a quad-divisional format. Sault Ste. Marie finished 1st in the West Division and 4th in the Western Conference as a whole, consisting of numerous draft picks made by Dubas during his short tenure.

Namely, those who also wound up being drafted into the NHL.

2011: Darnell Nurse (EDM), Tyler Ganly (CAR) — NHL Draft class of 2013.

2012: Jared McCann (VAN), Michael Bunting (ARI) — NHL Draft class of 2014.

2013: Zachary Senyshyn (BOS), Blake Speers (NJ), Colton White (NJ) — NHL Draft class of 2015.

Shortly before departing to the Maple Leafs in July of 2014, Dubas gifted the Soo with one final crack at the OHL Priority Selection. Subsequently, he landed a few gems. 

2014: Boris Katchouk (TBL), Jack Kopacka (ANA), Timothy Gettinger (NYR) — NHL Draft class of 2016.

In conjunction with his own personal OHL draft picks (10), Sault Ste. Marie produced the second most players drafted into the National Hockey League (14) from 2011-2014.

Drafting soon became known as Dubas’ strong suit, as Brendan Shanahan was determined to nail him down as the Maple Leafs’ next bright young hockey mind. 

Within three seasons, the Greyhounds were restored to a top-tier franchise and perennial leader amongst their division. He departed with a 109-76-7-12 overall record by the end of his run, which included two playoff appearances and a West Division title in 2013-14. 

The Soo continue that same winning tradition to this very day and are in the midst of the OHL Championship Series in search of the J. Ross Robertson Cup versus the Hamilton Bulldogs.

A New Chapter

On July 22, 2014, Kyle Dubas was named assistant GM before being joined by longtime London Knights’ owner and GM, Mark Hunter, as co-executives later in the year. 

Soon, he was taken under the wing of legendary NHL General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, after he left New Jersey and was hired by Brendan Shanahan in July 2015. 

Dubas assumed responsibility over the Toronto Marlies and within four seasons as their General Manager, the Marlies have produced a 190-90-20-4 record on the back of two North Division titles. Additionally, in 2015, Kyle Dubas pulled the trigger on what might be his most important signing for the Toronto Marlies, who is head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Most recently, Toronto finished this past season with a 54-18-2-2 record to lead the AHL and took home the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as 2017-18 regular season champions. The Marlies remain amidst a deep Calder Cup Playoff run as they await an opponent in the Eastern Conference Final, after sweeping Syracuse in Round 2.

Not to mention, the sheer amount of quality players that have or continue to graduate from Ricoh Coliseum to the Air Canada Centre just down the street. Among those products currently with the Maple Leafs, include; Connor Brown, Connor Carrick, Travis Dermott, Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo and William Nylander.

Clearly, it has also paid off in dividends for the Toronto Maple Leafs—who established franchise high’s in several categories including points in a season (105), wins (49), wins at home (29), and fewest penalty minutes (570).

Due Process

Fast forward to May 11, 2018, and the Maple Leafs Public Relations (@LeafsPR) is breaking news on Twitter that Kyle Dubas has been named the 17th General Manager in franchise history.

It has been a… Short time coming for the now-32-year-old Dubas, who had seen his stock rapidly increase over four years within one of the NHL’s most prolific franchises.

At his introductory press conference, Brendan Shanahan promptly introduced Kyle as Toronto’s heir to the General Manager’s role and projected him as the ideal candidate to take over where Lou Lamoriello left off.

According to Shanahan, four years ago he reached out to Kyle Dubas for a simple meeting with an up-and-coming hockey mind that was expected to last one hour, turned into a nine-hour-long affair. It was during this time that the Maple Leafs’ President was determined to have this promising young mind on board. 

Kyle commented on his relationship with Leafs’ head coach, Mike Babcock, 

"I’ve always had a good relationship with Mike. We talk about all aspects of life—fatherhood, family. The way he's perceived is he's very open to ideas, open to change, open to trying to make the Maple Leafs better and that's his only focus."

He also commented on and enjoys many of the rules placed in order under Lou Lamoriello’s reign as GM, namely the hair policies.

What’s the Word on Hunter?

Fellow drafting aficionado, Mark Hunter, appeared to be the other leading candidate for Toronto’s previously vacant head office position. Dubas served as co-interim General Managers with Hunter in 2015 prior to the hiring of Lou Lamoriello, before returning to their respective executive duties within the organization.

His future remains a mystery at this point but the feeling is that he expects to be an NHL General Manager sooner rather than later.

Brendan Shanahan added some perspective on the situation,

"It was a difficult decision in that we had two very qualified people ... Mark wanted the job for sure."

Ultimately, Shanahan narrowed his sights on Dubas and the rest is history. Hunter was respectful of that decision. 

What Happens Next?

With his hiring now made official, Dubas has a few impending priorities to attend to:

1. It’s simple. Sign William Nylander... Long or short term?

2. DEFENCE. This team needs help in the short term, too. Does he steer the course searching for young speed/skill or fill in the gaps with competent defenders?

3. Assuming Nylander remains a RW, the Leafs are in need of 3rd + 4th line centres. One of which may already be taken care of with recent reports of a deal in place with Pär Lindholm of the SHL, where he produced his best professional season at 26 y/o with 18 goals, 29 assists, for 47 points in 49 games as a member of Skelleftea AIK.

4. Navigate the impending cap crunch. After Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner won’t come cheap.

5. Team captaincy.

The hockey world is about to watch and continue learning from the philosophy of a 32-year-old difference maker.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_  

Photo Credit: NHL.com