The plot of the movie Moneyball largely centred around Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane and his new, young assistant brought over from Cleveland, Paul DePodesta (Peter Brandt). The two think out side the box, breaking from tradition while using uncommon statistics to find quality players to produce runs/wins, keeping the A’s as contenders without having to spend large sums of cash on big name free agents.
While the plot line wouldn’t be exactly the same as Moneyball, the Toronto Maple Leafs could soon find themselves producing a similar storyline with the hiring of new Assistant GM Kyle Dubas. Gone is the old guard, as Assistant GM Claude Loiselle and VP of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin have been fired, and in steps the 28-year old Dubas to assist current, veteran GM Dave Nonis.
Normally an Assistant GM hiring would not create as much noise as Dubas’ hiring did Tuesday afternoon, but Dubas’ created a stir for two reasons: his young age, and that he is a proponent of using advanced stats/analytics.
Not since the days of naming Gord Stellick GM in 1988 have the Leafs placed someone so young into an upper management position, but just because Dubas is young does not mean he is inexperienced. He began working with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds when he was only 11 years old, staying with the team until the age of 20, at which time he had become a scout for the club. He then worked as a player agent for five years before returning to the Greyhounds as their GM at age of 25. He took a team that missed the playoffs in his first year as GM, to a contender in the Western Conference by 2013-14, a team that was able to compete night in and night out with powerhouses such as Erie, London, and Guelph. So while he may be a young man (younger than four players on the Leafs roster), he has plenty of experience when it comes to evaluating talent, dealing with contract negotiations, and the ability to put together a solid, contending team.
What really turned heads though, especially in the Twitter-verse was that he is a fan of using advanced statistics to analyze players. While this is certainly true, there is much more to the way way Dubas views the game than simply using advanced stats as the Twitter world has made it out to be. I listened to an interview Dubas gave to TSN 1050 last year, and when asked about analytics, he said that while they can be a neat tool to use, they are certainly not the be all and end all when putting a team together, especially because the OHL does not have advanced stats recorded, meaning teams have to collect them on their own, so they will mostly be used for internal analysis.
Dubas also went on to say that with the Greyhounds, two of his goals were to increase the academic learning skills of his players, as well as really improving on off-ice conditioning. He also stated that when things were not going as planned during the 2012-13 season, he made a coaching change, one that with a new system under Sheldon Keefe led to the Greyhounds becoming successful both on and off the ice. If this means that Dubas and Nonis can work with players off the ice to help make them stronger both mentally and physically, then kudos to them if they can make it happen.
From what I gather on Dubas, I see a young man with experience beyond his years, who also has a fresh outlook on the game, one that does not rely simply on advanced stats, but also incorporates improving a players body and mind. If Dubas can assist Nonis and Co. into improving this team into a contender with his style of thinking, we could see hockey’s version of Moneyball here in T.O.
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Main Photo by Randy Risling