Following Lou Lamoriello’s departure from his post as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, speculation immediately shifted as to who will replace him.
That’s where we’re still sitting now.
Assistant GM Kyle Dubas has long been tabbed as GM-in-waiting, though NHL insider Glenn Healy suggested a similar conundrum as other insiders have over the weekend: give the job to Dubas, and risk losing Mark Hunter.
“The poison pill is, Hunter didn’t come here to be a glorified scout. That’s your problem — you’re going to lose him,” Healy said during a conversation on The Jeff Blair Show on Monday. “He’s got a really financially successful franchise in London that he can probably go back to and put about $3 million in his pocket. So, you think he wants a coffee, a car and a cup and away he goes, he’s going to go to different games all over Ontario — I mean, he has been one of the biggest difference-makers for this organization.”
The one obvious fact on this subject is that Lamoriello, who saw the Leafs through their rebuild over his three years as GM, is a tough act to follow.
“You’ve got to remember, when Lou got here they were doing things like, players were showing up with their suit on from the night before after a 5-0 loss against St. Louis; missing practice because they were fixing a tire on their car; there were all kinds of bad off-ice reports, and you didn’t hear any of that once he came on board,” Healy said. “This ship was cleaned up. He put a culture in, like it or not, that was spectacular and the on-ice product and crest on the front was all that mattered. And now you’ve got to replace that.”
Healy also weighed in on another big topic in Toronto hockey these days after last week’s reports of possible discontent between Leafs head coach Mike Babcock and star Auston Matthews caught much of the hockey world by surprise.
“It’s a small hockey world, stuff gets out. Babcock tries to sneak down to Phoenix to meet, it gets out right away. I mean, that’s just the way this hockey world works,” Healy said. “My question would be, did Auston Matthews even know he was coming? That would be the bigger question that I’d like an answer to.”
Like Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, who first suggested a possible struggle between Matthews and Babcock, Healy was speaking purely from his perspective as a former NHLer with the opportunity to play alongside stars — in Healy’s case, Mark Messier.
“How many games did Mark Messier start? I’ll give you the answer: every game. It wasn’t even a question, he started every game. How many did Auston Matthews start?” Healy explained. “How many power plays did Mark Messier start? I’ll give you the answer: All of them. It wasn’t even a question. How many did Auston Matthews start?”
Matthews’ playoff performance in Round 1 against the Boston Bruins (one goal, one assist) came under criticism, as did Babcock’s use of him — shuffling lineups, line-matching, and perhaps not giving the star centreman as many special-teams opportunities as he’s used to.
“These are things that, for star players, it drives you batty.” said Healy. “Does he want to play with Marner? You’re darn right he does.
“You don’t even have to know the true skinny to know the way hockey players think,” Healy said. “So, my question would be, did Auston even know he was coming, and what does he think when he shows up at the door? I would imagine he probably didn’t think too much of it.”