Brendan Shanahan has put his stamp on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Head coach Randy Carlyle and general manager Dave Nonis remain in place, but Shanahan shook up the front office Tuesday with the hiring of Kyle Dubas as assistant GM while relieving Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin of their duties.
Dubas may not be well known to the average Maple Leafs fan, but he’s a prominent name in hockey circles. Here’s the lowdown on Shanahan’s latest hiring.
Some have said Dubas is the Theo Epstein of hockey. He’s just 28-years-old and has spent the past three seasons as the general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Dubas first worked for the Greyhounds as a stick boy when he was 11 before becoming a hockey operations assistant at the age of 14. He also worked for the franchise as a scout while attending Brock University’s sports management program. It was no surprise Dubas got a job with the Soo at such an early age. He had multiple family ties to the organization — his father was a former Greyhounds intern, and his grandfather, Walter, coached the team from 1960 to 1967.
Following his graduation from Brock (with honours), Dubas became the youngest person ever to be certified by the NHLPA as an agent. He landed a job with Uptown Sports Management, where he represented players such as Kyle Clifford and Andrew Desjardins.
In April 2011, the Greyhounds were in need of a new general manager after missing the playoffs in four of their past eight seasons. They originally planned to hire a veteran hockey man to reshape the direction of the club, but the board of directors was so impressed with Dubas it unanimously decided to hire the 25-year-old, who became the second-youngest GM in OHL history.
“He came well prepared and has some excellent ideas,” Greyhounds majority shareholder Lou Lukenda told the Globe & Mail in October 2011. “We thought his experience as an agent could help us, and we liked the idea that he wanted a team that would be good every year, as opposed to the idea of building a team to try and go all the way for one year, only to pay the consequences for the next three or four.”
Dubas’s most unconventional move came in December of 2012 when the Greyhounds hired Sheldon Keefe to replace Mike Stapleton as the team’s head coach. Keefe had a checkered past considering his relationship with ex-NHL agent David Frost. But after doing his due dilligence, Dubas was comfortable and believed Keefe had earned the shot at redemption.
“I think, as everybody knows, there’s some baggage there that was accrued when Sheldon was a young man,” Dubas told reporters after the hiring. “He’s spent the last seven years of his life shedding it. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anybody give such a blunt assessment, criticizing themselves for their decisions in the past, than I have with Sheldon. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have made mistakes in their life and it’s always guarded or with conditions, blame goes elsewhere. With Sheldon, I think he was influenced at a young age by someone who was not a very good person … but he doesn’t ever blame anybody but himself. He’s extremely forthright and honest.”
During Dubas’s tenure with Sault Ste. Martie, his teams finished with an overall record of 109-76-7-12, which included two post-season berths and a West Division title (44 wins) this past season.
“As an organization we are very excited for the opportunity that has presented itself for Kyle starting today,” Lukenda said in a release. It has been a pleasure to see the passion, dedication and commitment he has shown our organization over his tenure as GM while ensuring the sustained success for the Soo Greyhounds program.”
Unlike the typical hockey executive, Dubas is very active on Twitter. He is a baseball fan (the Seattle Mariners are his favourite team) who routinely posts about analytic-based articles. Here are some examples:
WHY DUBAS APPEALED TO THE LEAFS:
Before Shanahan was hired to be team president, the Leafs were not considered a forward-thinking organization. Clearly, Shanahan wanted to change that approach, as Dubas is considered to be one of the most progressive minds in junior hockey.
“Kyle is a young executive that has made a strong name for himself in hockey with a progressive style, work ethic and maturation beyond his years,” Shanahan said in a press release. “He has a fresh approach that we feel will benefit our club for years to come.”
The new Leafs assistant GM is a large proponent of hockey analytics and will likely provide the team with a stats-based method for player evaluation. It’s a drastic change from an organization that has been harshly criticized for largely ignoring the analytical trends that have been growing in the sport.
“The chance to work for the Toronto Maple Leafs is like a dream come true,” Dubas said in the release. “I’m truly excited to begin helping this team win and learn from men like Brendan Shanahan and Dave Nonis. I’m very thankful for this opportunity, but equally grateful to the Greyhounds organization and the city of Sault Ste. Marie for helping put me in this position. The Leafs are focused on building a team that will enjoy long-term success and I am excited to play a role in it.”