Leafs’ Dubas on NHL call-ups: ‘We have a plan, and we’re sticking to it’

Maple Leafs assistant GM explains to Dean Blundell & Co. the rationale for not playing Brendan Leipsic after his nice debut, and whether certain Marlies might get their chance with the big club before season’s end.

Emergency call-up Brendan Leipsic provided a rare bright spot in the painful season of the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, stirring up a little hope for a fanbase hungry for success.

But when Leipsic wasn’t in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks — a 7-2 road loss — it was a clear reminder that the club won’t be deviating from its grand plan. And the first order of business continues to be patience.

The Maple Leafs’ assistant general manager, Kyle Dubas, explained the rationale behind the roster adjustments over the weekend during an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Dean Blundell & Co. Tuesday morning.

“With the amount of injuries that we’ve had… you’re trying to manage that situation and there are some specific CBA things and roster rules that you have to abide by, so when Nazem Kadri came back yesterday and played in the game, we had to — once he was cleared to play — we had to not dress Brendan,” Dubas said. “But I think as it moves forward, we’ll see how everything goes towards Feb. 29, and adjust from there, and I’m sure you’ll see plenty of players from the Marlies get an opportunity.”

Dubas also offered insight into the Marlies’ successful season, how the Leafs determine call-ups, and why it was so important for them to acquire prospect Tobias Lindberg in the nine-player deal that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators.

Here are some excerpts:

On who gets called up to the big club:
“There have been so many players down there that have had good seasons that have given us, frankly, quite a few options in terms of who can come up. A lot of it is governed by their position that they play and what our needs are going to be with the Leafs at that time. So as we get past the trade deadline and into the final month and a half of the NHL season, I think we’ll have a look at which of the players best suit the needs of the Leafs to help us have a competitive final month and a half.”

On balancing the division-leading Marlies’ success (38-9-4) with NHL call-ups:
“We never operate… in a way of saying, ‘OK, well we can’t have player X go up this game, because we’re really going to need him [on the Marlies]. We’ve just gotta say ‘Hey, if the player deserves it, that’s great, and Lou [Lamoriello] and I will discuss it with the rest of our staff. Players will go up and down and with the Marlies. We’re left to find a way, which makes it a fun challenge, an interesting one, and one that’s been pretty exciting throughout the season because you see different guys come up and step up… and the team just continues to roll, which has been fun.”

On what’s better for a player’s development: getting called up, or staying in AHL?
“In the mind of every single player, they want to be up and playing. That’s their goal, and rightfully so. That’s what they’ve worked hard towards. In our mind, we’re sticking to our plan, we’re being patient with our players, they’re developing very well under Sheldon Keefe and his staff with the Marlies, but we want to reward them for that at some point, whether that’s at some point this year or next year, or really whenever they earn it in our eyes. We have a plan, and we’re sticking to it.”

On Tobias Lindberg and what he’ll bring to the organization:
“Obviously in Ottawa’s case, they wanted Dion [Phaneuf] to help push them over the edge right now, and in our case, we wanted chips that could help us build toward the future. Tobias [Lindberg] and the [2017] draft pick certainly do that for us. We’re very familiar with [Lindberg], and we’re very excited to have him.

“He’s a big winger with skill and competitiveness that we’re happy to acquire. He struggled in the first game on Saturday against St. John’s and then was outstanding on Sunday in the final game of that roadtrip.

We’re excited for his potential. We’re excited about the type of player he could become for us.”