By Stan Smith
We recently wrote about the press conference that Brendon Shanahan gave on the day he decided not to renew the contract of General Manager Kyle Dubas. To us, the explanation Shanahan gave the press and his demeanour, in general, didn’t pass the “smell” test. We felt there had to be more than Shanahan was not telling us.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Chaotic Season: Ups, Downs & Now Outs
Shanahan and Dubas Were at Odds for a Long Time
James Mirtle of The Athletic, who is a pretty reputable NHL insider, reported a week prior to Shanahan and Dubas parting ways that “It’s not exactly the league’s best-kept secret that Shanahan and Dubas have been somewhat at odds this season, something evident in the fact they haven’t watched many games together, a change from years past.”
Mirtle followed that up with a post on Saturday that contained a couple of interesting statements.
“Shanahan had blocked transactions that Dubas wanted to make at key points in the past several seasons, creating frustration in parts of the management group. Shanahan had also at times dictated certain moves he wanted made that Dubas didn’t agree with.”
“The friction in the Leafs’ front office and the relationship between the two men was still a factor, however, and Dubas’ desire for greater autonomy from Shanahan is believed to have been one of the untold reasons for how things ultimately played out.”
That Makes More Sense
To us, that makes a lot more sense than the mixed messages that Shanahan gave us on that Friday.
At the time Mike Babcock was fired it was common knowledge that Dubas and Babcock had completely different ideas of how a hockey team should be built. As Dubas put it shortly after the firing, he noted that he and Babcock: “I tried to do as best I could … and I’m disappointed in myself and only myself that it didn’t work out, that we couldn’t become simpatico on every single topic.”
When we wrote about Babcock’s firing we asked the question back then “What happens now if Dubas and Shanahan can’t become simpatico.”
Disagreeing with a Coach Differs from Disagreeing with the Team President
We wrote that it was one thing for the general manager of a team to disagree with the coach, who was below the GM in the pecking order. But, it was something completely different for the general manager and his boss, the president, to disagree.
If the coach and the GM don’t get along, the GM is going to win that fight pretty much every time. The same cannot be said when the GM doesn’t get along with the man who hired him and is his boss.
The Schism Was Obviously Beyond Repair
It was this week that we saw that speculation play out. Shanahan obviously got to the point where he felt that the schism that was developing between him and Dubas had grown to the point where it was beyond repair.
While the act of it played out quickly, over a few days, it is obvious now the lead-up to it took place over a much longer period of time. Now it seems like this parting of ways was inevitable.
The question going forwards is what is the lasting aftereffect of this going to be? Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner all have contracts that are running out at the end of the upcoming or the following season. Head coach Sheldon Keefe’s job has to be in jeopardy despite him having one more year on his present contract.
Keefe was Dubas’ guy, from Juniors to the AHL and then the NHL. You’d think his days have to be numbered.
Is This the Best Thing for the Maple Leafs’ Franchise?
Maybe, as we speculated previously what has transpired over the past few days might be the best thing for this franchise in the long run. For the short term, however, we can’t see this being a good thing. There is a definite feeling of doom that has cast its pall over this team.
As long-time Maple Leafs’ fans, it does have a certain familiarity about it.