TORONTO — Kyle Dubas found out on Twitter.
Let that sink in a moment as you contemplate the ramifications of Auston Matthews’s error in judgement this summer. No boss likes a surprise. That fact is multiplied roughly a million times over when your boss manages a very front-facing entity like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the star of the operation has a run-in with the law.
That’s why Dubas didn’t hide his disappointment when speaking with reporters about the complaint for disorderly conduct Matthews received in Scottsdale, Ariz., four months ago and only disclosed to the organization on Tuesday afternoon.
The general manager phoned his star centre as soon as that piece of news passed through his Twitter timeline.
“(He was) very honest about it,” Dubas said Wednesday night after watching Matthews score in a 3-0 exhibition win over the Montreal Canadiens.
“There was no ducking, there was no denying anything. He was very honest with me about what had happened, which was … I would have liked to have known before, but I’m happy that in the moment when he could have ducked away or deferred, that he was honest with me.”
The Leafs are still in fact-finding mode about what happened in the early hours of May 26. At the end of a drunken night with friends, Matthews is alleged to have dropped his pants — but not his underwear — in the direction of a female security guard after his group first tried to gain access to the security guard’s car.
Matthews was not arrested and said Wednesday that his legal team mapped out a plan for handling the case, acknowledging that he should have made the Leafs aware of what was going on as part of that process.
“You know what, I think that was just an error in judgement to be honest with you,” he said.
It’s not a good look for the team’s highest-paid player and presumed next captain. That is likely off the table now.
While Dubas doesn’t believe this will negatively affect his relationship with Matthews over the long term, he said they’ll need to have an honest conversation at some point. The incident will also be used internally as a reminder about the responsibility that comes with being associated with the Leafs.
“We have to find out what’s happened, what’s going on and then subsequently we have to use it as an opportunity to continue to educate our whole organization — every player, every staff member — about the way that we expect our organization to conduct its business,” said Dubas.
“Here at the rink every day, in the weight room, in the community and how they interact with every citizen that they come into contact with because when they are doing so they’re representing the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
It should be a learning opportunity for Matthews.
As special as his athletic gifts are, he’s not exempt from being 22. Everyone makes mistakes and the consequences tend to be even more punitive when you’re in a privileged position like his.
“I know he takes it seriously, what’s gone on,” said teammate John Tavares.
“It’s been hard,” Matthews acknowledged. “I feel I still got to go out there and do my job and try to block that out. As easy it is to say, it’s not (to do).”
At least two mistakes were ultimately made in this situation.
The incident itself is serious enough in nature that Matthews is still facing legal action. Failing to share it with Dubas and president Brendan Shanahan was another error.
“I don’t think I have them in a power rankings,” said Dubas, when asked which bothered him more. “They’re equally (bad), probably. No. 1 that there was a situation and No. 2 the way in which we found out. I think both are disappointing and will be addressed and will roll from there.
“Obviously, you don’t ever like for there to be any situations and then when you do, I think you want to know about them as soon as possible.”
It’s all out in the open now.
Matthews expressed regret about causing a distraction for the team as it prepares for the start of the regular season. He also let down members of the front office, but the GM plans to rally around his player.
“I think with everything that happens, where someone doesn’t meet the level of expectation that you have for them or (they have) for themselves, it’s an opportunity for them to learn and to grow and that’s how we’ll approach it,” said Dubas.