Last summer the Toronto Maple Leafs felt like they hit it big when they choose to make Kyle Dubas the full-time general manager of the team after Lou Lamoriello and the Leafs parted ways. Dubas was chosen over Mark Hunter, Toronto’s former Director of Scouting. This was a move that some questioned but others loved. Mr. Hunter has since become estranged from the Maple Leafs organization and Dubas has made Toronto his team. His biggest move is bringing coveted free agent John Tavares to the blue and white and re-signing Auston Matthews, as well as William Nylander to long term extensions. He also traded for a much needed top- four defenceman in Jake Muzzin.
That’s all fine and dandy, but his motto “we can and we will”, the more fans think about it, is a bold promise to make something somewhat unthinkable, thinkable. Which begs the question, “Is Dubas a tad bit too confident for his own good?”
Kyle Dubas Is A Tad Bit Overconfident
To many, Dubas’ confidence in his team and his plan is his greatest strength, but also his greatest weakness. I think every fan in Leafs Nation loves the idea that Dubas thinks he can keep this team competitive for a long time to come with the upcoming cap crunch. It’s a noble thought and with his brains, he could probably make it happen.
That being said, the reality is that next years cap situation in Toronto is not going to be pretty. Especially with guys like Mitch Marner, Jake Gardiner, and Kasperi Kapanen and more, all looking for contracts. Unless any of these players are willing to take discounts someone will have to go. It most likely will be Gardiner as Marner is a big part of the core of the team and is one of the main reasons Tavares chose Toronto to be his stomping grounds for the next seven seasons.
Toronto’s defence is average to begin with, losing Gardiner will not make things any better, even if Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are ready to take their next step. That’s not to say they are screwed for next season, but it will be hard to add on unless they can find a way to dump the Nikita Zaitsev or Patrick Marleau contracts.
Dubas will keep his core, but at what cost?
When asked if Dubas can keep his core together after signing John Tavares to a seven-year contract worth $11 million USD, Dubas famously said, “We can and we will.” If fans assume that the core is Matthews, Nylander, and Marner, he’s two-thirds of the way there. Unless a team knocks the socks off Marner with an offer sheet, he will be a Leaf for a long time to come. The real question will be how long and for how much? He is going to want his money, and many agree that he deserves it.
Once Marner gets paid, there will not be too much money to spend on other parts of the roster. Meaning Toronto will have to rely on low-cost contracts to fill out the rest of their roster and making sure they can retain players like Andreas Johnsson for a fair price.
In other words, the 2018-2019 Maple Leafs will probably be one of the best rosters Toronto will ice for the next several years and it still has its problems. Defence and lack of grittiness being its weakest points. If Toronto wasn’t a lock to play the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, this might not be as big of a problem.
Dubas promise to Nylander
If Toronto does not find its way past Boston in the playoffs, fans will most likely call the season a failure and will want changes. With the current cap crunch, the Leafs are in, it will be hard to upgrade their roster unless they trade a player like Nylander. It shouldn’t be that big of a problem, right? Welp, it probably will be because Dubas promised Nylander he would not trade him after he re-signed with the Leafs. This is silly because he is the easiest asset to move that could be used to trade for a defencive upgrade if need be. Now if he does anything with Nylander, which I doubt he will, Dubas loses his credibility.
It’s a tough position to be in. Especially when Dubas will need to keep his first-round draft picks to add to his team for years to come. Meaning unless he wants to sacrifice those, he’s kind of not going to be able to do anything significant.
Dubas Needs To Be More Forthcoming With Fans
Although Dubas has a cap crunch on his hands. He’s made a promise he shouldn’t have one. He needs to back off the narrative that Toronto will be a realistic Stanley Cup contender for years to come. In addition, he can subtly explain that there might be some bumps in the road ahead. If he does that he will be fine. Hopefully, some of the fans, if not all of them, will be able to emphasize with Dubas predicament. After all, without Dubas and his plan, Toronto would most likely not have Tavares. Tavares came to Toronto because he believed in his plan.
Dubas’ successes definitely override his failures. If Toronto beats Boston, all will be well in Leafs Nation, especially if a deep playoff run follows. If Dubas can be more “real” fans of the game can appreciate how talented he truly is.