What to make of Kyle Dubas speaking with the Avalanche

NHL insider Luke Fox tells Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup that the Anaheim Ducks will be forced to move defencemen this offseason, and the Maple Leafs are a perfect fit, and should pick up the phone ASAP.

Elliotte Friedman reported on Tuesday that the Toronto Maple Leafs have granted the Colorado Avalanche permission to speak to Kyle Dubas.

I wasn’t a fan of the news.

Dubas is a funny subject in Leaf Land. I have spoken to some people who don’t quite understand what the big deal is.

Chris Johnston wrote about the Leafs signing Dubas on July 22, 2014, still less than three full years ago, and it all seems like ancient history.

“Let this be a reminder about how fast things can change in the world of professional sports: Just four months ago the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the midst of a spectacular collapse that followers of advanced hockey metrics had spent a season predicting.”

Three years later, the Leafs were in the playoffs and the whiteboard in the Leafs locker-room looks like this:

Zone entries and Corsi were things the analytics community shouted for the Leafs to follow more closely for so long. Once Dubas came on board, and the Leafs’ analytics department soon after, things started to change. You could legitimately argue that the Leafs’ rebuild truly began with the hiring of Dubas.

That’s why I think many Leafs fans are so protective of him.

Fast forward two years and there were rumours that the Arizona Coyotes wanted him.

Then there were whispers of Dubas potentially jumping to the Buffalo Sabres less than a month ago.

And now here we are today with the Dubas-to-Colorado rumours.

Let’s look at this from a few angles.

First of all, Colorado wanting Dubas’ services makes a lot of sense. The Leafs have been praised for their rebuild all season long. Meanwhile, the Avalanche finished in dead last with 48 points, a full 21 points behind the second-worst team. If there’s any team in the NHL that needs a rebuild, it’s the Avalanche.

Obviously Dubas hasn’t been totally in charge of the Leafs’ rebuild. Brendan Shanahan is the president, Lou Lamoriello is the general manager, and there are a host of other voices in the Leafs’ brain trust.

Whether he’s totally in charge or not, Dubas has been a key part of the Leafs going from being terrible to being a playoff team. If your team is terrible, and the Avalanche are certainly that, of course you should be calling Dubas.

Dubas is an assistant GM in Toronto. What if Colorado can offer him something more?

Joe Sakic is currently the general manager, executive vice president, and alternate governor in Denver. Would he be interested in stepping aside as GM and giving more control to somebody else like Dubas?

Is Dubas even ready to be an NHL GM? Just 13 months ago, he said he still had a lot to learn.

I think a lot of this comes from people thinking Dubas is destined to be the next GM of the Maple Leafs. That definitely seemed like the direction at one point.

In July 2015, about one year into Dubas’ tenure with the Leafs, Lamoriello said this:

“If he doesn’t become general manager here – I’m not going to be here forever – it’s his fault.”

That is as blunt and upfront as you’re ever going to hear Lamoriello in the media. That was also two years ago.

Even with the blanket of secrecy Lamoriello keeps the his team under, it’s hard to keep something as big as replacing the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs under wraps. Unless I’ve missed it, I haven’t heard or read much of anything in this regard for quite some time.

I often make fun of Lamoriello for using a lot of words to say nothing but his 11-minute interview with Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports from about a month ago is worth a listen for Leafs fans.

One part stuck out to me: The Leafs are in a five-year plan that changes everyday.

This isn’t new. A quick Twitter search reveals Lamoriello has said this several times over the past two seasons. That being said, this phrase can be applied to a lot of things. Clearly, Dubas was once destined to be the GM of the Leafs one day. What’s clear as well is plans change and that might not necessarily be the case anymore. It might also still be the case. It might also not be the case but then become the case again. We’re going to have to wait and see.

Let’s pretend this ends with the Leafs losing Dubas the the Avalanche. Surely the Leafs would prefer that Dubas join a team like Colorado instead of a divisional rival like Buffalo or Detroit.

If Dubas is going to leave because a team wants him enough and can potentially offer him more, better that he be further away from the Leafs than closer.

Let’s also not forget – this just kind of happens to good teams.

On the ice, teams like Pittsburgh have to constantly regenerate the roster around their core. James Neal and Jordan Staal are just a couple of the big names the Penguins had to trade away for one reason or another.

Off the ice, the Penguins just lost assistant GM Jason Botterill to Buffalo, where he will become the next GM of the Sabres.

Good teams have a surplus of good assets. Some teams have lots of great forwards or defenders, some teams have two starting goalies, and some teams have a stacked front office. Between Shanahan, Lamoriello, Mark Hunter, Dubas, Brandon Pridham, etc., the Leafs arguably have just that.

Whether it’s Lamoriello staying on for longer or the team preferring to promote Hunter, it’s possible there is a combination of two things: Dubas is ready for another challenge and the Leafs can’t, or won’t, provide one.

Of course, this might all be nothing. Maybe Dubas stays with the Leafs. Maybe Lamoriello retires tomorrow. Maybe I’ll quit blogging and open a dog-walking business.

You never know what the future holds. That was true when the Leafs hired Dubas in 2014 and it’s true today, as well.

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