The Toronto Maple Leafs have been very active before the NHL trade deadline. As of yesterday, general manager Kyle Dubas had made several moves in an effort to strengthen their roster for a potential playoff run.
In total, the team added defensemen Jake McCabe, Luke Schenn, and Erik Gustafsson. They also added forwards Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, and Sam Lafferty – all of whom have played or are natural centers. They kept Alex Kerfoot and moved Pierre Engvall.
All this trade activity suggests that the team is trying to address some specific weaknesses and build more depth. The trades also seem to focus on the realistic potential of meeting the Tampa Bay Lightning once again in the first round of the playoffs.
Related: THOUGHTS MAPLE LEAFS’ MCCABE & LAFFERTY TRADE: KERFOOT GONE?
Kyle Dubas Might Have Had the Lighting on His Mind in These Trades
From what I’ve seen and read, the Maple Leafs might have made these moves specifically to match up well against Tampa Bay. They are considered one of the strongest teams in the league. The Maple Leafs might have strategically looked ahead and believed they needed to make specific roster changes to compete effectively against them in a potential playoff series.
However, it’s a risky move because the NHL playoffs are unpredictable. A team can have a key injury, or a team can get hot, or it can ride an unbeatable goalie. From what I’ve seen, it takes a good team but also a confluence of good luck and “fate” to make a deep run. Ultimately, the Maple Leafs will need to play their best hockey regardless of who they face in the playoffs.
Related: Maple Leafs Cap Situation Indicates Dubas Isn’t Done Yet
So Now, How Do Maple Leafs’ Fans Feel About Kyle Dubas
One of the most interesting things that I’ve noticed over this past couple of weeks (or so) has been what might be a change in how Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is perceived by the fans. In my experience covering the team for the past four years, fans have come to dislike him intensely. [I was going to use “hate,” but couldn’t bring myself to do so.]
Over the past week or so, Dubas has made some recent moves that have actually been well-received by fans. The players he’s brought in meet what the fans seemed to have desired. The team’s defence is more solid and experienced. The forward units might have a strong third line driven by the addition of Ryan O’Reilly. A fourth line of Kerfoot, Sam Lafferty, and Noel Acciari is strong.
The point is that fans have come to see these additions as potentially improving the team’s success in the playoffs. Gosh, Dubas even now has a first-round draft pick.
So, Will the Positive Sentiment Last?
About the change in sentiment towards Kyle Dubas, will it last? We all know the answer to that question. If the Maple Leafs do well in the postseason, the Dubas bandwagon might be jumped on.
It’s not surprising that fans would feel more positive about Dubas after some successful moves. But the real success is in a long postseason run. Toward that end, there will be mounting pressure on the team to play well enough to move on, and on, and on some more.
I Wonder How Dubas Feels When His Players Don’t Perform
Honestly, the conversation about Dubas being liked or disliked is moot. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is whether he can continue to make good decisions to improve this team. Ultimately, the players must perform on the ice and bring success to the organization.
That’s been the way it’s always been. I admit I’m an apologist for Dubas. For a geeky guy, he has tons of intensity and drive. I wonder what he might have been as a hockey player if he had the physique and talent.
I also have to think that he chafes when the players he signs for big money don’t perform up to (anyone’s – especially fans’) expectations.
Related: Did Maple Leafs Have Lightning in Mind with Schenn Trade?