Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is now the former general manager. The playoff exit raised enough questions about the team’s future that a ton of attention became focused on the potential changes at the top. In all that drama, particularly regarding Dubas, it would seem that the communication got goofy and President Brendan Shanahan decided to remove Dubas from his job.
In this blog post, I’ll spend some time considering his postmortem. I’ll especially jump into what I think were some of the personal challenges [four tough spots] Dubas faced. In that. I’ll also share reasons why I feel empathy for the situation he was in.
Related: A Counterpoint to “Maple Leafs Marner Might Be the Odd Man Out”
Tough Spot One: Working Without Job Security Had to Be Tough
In a tough market like Toronto with the Maple Leafs, there’s going to be huge pressure. It’s tough enough with job security. I might have proved to be impossible without it. Dubas noted his very real and personal thoughts about his family and the stress that was put on them as the pressure mounted.
Apparently, doing so was not seen as the right thing to do. I read that, as Brendan Shanahan described his thinking, hearing Dubas talk was the first time he wondered about Dubas commitment to the team. Think about that.
Tough Spot Two: Results-Driven Business
What made Dubas’ job so tough in Toronto was that he was in an NHL market that was entirely postseason results-driven. That’s a tough business and the team’s second-round playoff exit put Dubas under scrutiny. It was a tough job to deliver success as a general manager.
It was made tougher by the fact that his players didn’t deliver. After the trade deadline, the general consensus was that he had done well putting the postseason team together. They did not deliver against the Florida Panthers. Was that Dubas’ fault? Many fans think it was.
Tough Spot Three: Dubas’ Relationship with Sheldon Keefe
Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe share a long-standing relationship, dating back to their time together in the Soo Greyhounds and the Toronto Marlies. Was there pressure on Dubas to fire his partner?
I think that had come up. If so, the thought of potentially firing Keefe, who has been a trusted coaching partner throughout Dubas’s career, could be emotionally challenging for Dubas. Making tough decisions that might affect personal relationships can be a heavy burden for any general manager.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Trade Matthews, Marner, or Nylander
Tough Spot Four: The Personal and Emotional Toll
Dubas’s year-end press conference revealed the toll that the demanding role of the general manager had taken on him and his family. He expressed the need to consider their well-being and evaluate whether he wanted to continue in the same position.
Mostly, players and coaches answer in almost robotic ways. However, the emotional weight and personal sacrifices required to excel in such a high-pressure job were obvious when Dubas spoke. These should not be overlooked.
If Shanahan meant what he said about hearing Dubas talk about that at the press conference was the moment he began to wonder about Dubas’ commitment to the team, what does that say about Shanahan’s expectations for Dubas?
The Bottom Line
Being the general manager of a franchise like the Maple Leafs comes with immense pressure. The constant public scrutiny and criticism can be mentally and emotionally draining for any general manager. As a fan, it always stuck with me that – whether he made right decisions or wrong decisions – Dubas handled himself with class.
I don’t doubt that he’ll get another job working to build a successful NHL team – just not in Toronto.
Related: Former Maple Leafs GM Shares Regrets About Leaving the Team