Might Leafs Already Have Their GM?

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (July 4) — Kyle Dubas is a young man with a boy’s face. And, he just helped to pull off one of the most important trades in recent Toronto Maple Leafs history — the multi–component deal that sent Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. Fairly impressive stuff.

Last week, I wrote a blog here about the peculiar notion of Dubas, 28, talking shop with Glen Sather, the 72–year–old now–former general manager of the New York Rangers. The inference being that Dubas could find himself at just a slight disadvantage. Well… my bad. Rather than negotiating with Sather, the Leafs youthful assistant managed to unload $6.8 million of Kessel’s salary and cap–onus for the next seven seasons on 66–year–old Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. The wily Rutherford, one of hockey’s many good people, made off with easily the best player in the trade — often a determinant factor. Dubas, however, quickly and efficiently engineered what was imperative for the Leafs: Dumping Kessel before Mike Babcock could sink his gnarly teeth into him.

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KYLE DUBAS: LOOKING YOUNG BUT ACTING OLD THIS WEEK.

There has been no word from Toronto club–president Brendan Shanahan about Dubas ascending into the full–time GM’s role. As such, it would be presumptuous of me to suggest otherwise. But, decision–making has evolved into a young man’s game — particularly in baseball — where up–and–comers in their late–20’s and early–30’s are frequently elevated into the lead position. Jon Daniels (Texas Rangers) and Matt Silverman (Tampa Bay Rays) were 28 when they became GM’s. Brian Cashman (New York Yankees) was 30. Alex Anthopoulos of the Toronto Blue Jays was 31; Billy Beane (Oakland A’s) and Chris Antonetti (Cleveland Indians) each 35. Hockey has remained more stodgy and traditional, yet the Maple Leafs are fairly reliant on youth with Dubas; assistant to the GM Brandon Pridham, 41, and the club’s trio of analytic gurus — Rob Pettapiece, Cam Charron and Darryl Metcalf — all still in their 20’s.

So, who’s to say that Dubas couldn’t handle the top job at 28? As it is, the Leafs are a committee–run organization under Shanahan, with Babcock possessing the most sway and influence of any coach in the league. Hall–of–Fame executive Cliff Fletcher is the club’s senior adviser, with more than a few tales and tips to share. Shanahan, himself — though fairly inexperienced at the top — has been around the game for more than 25 years as a player and executive, and has aligned the Leafs, in the opinion of many, as a progressive, forward–thinking team. No person with the general manager’s title would set out on his own.

This is not to imply that Dubas wouldn’t benefit from a more seasoned mentor. Mike Futa, for example, is an eight–year veteran of the two–time Stanley Cup–champion Los Angeles Kings. At 46, he is the club’s vice–president of hockey operations and director of player personnel. Futa has been linked to the head post in Toronto, though it appears that L.A. GM Dean Lombardi wants to keep him at his side — much in the way Sather sheltered Jeff Gorton before stepping down as manager of the Rangers this week. Sather had prevented the Leafs (and other teams) from yakking with and potentially swiping his long–time associate.

Whatever transpires here, the Leafs appear to be grooming a blue–chip hockey executive. Dubas added gold to his resume with the Kessel deal.

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FOR THE RECORD: As a reminder, my take on Kessel playing for Mike Babcock was posted here, without equivocation, in a May 21 blog — hours after the Maple Leafs signed their new coach:

“Even the most dyed–in–the–wool Leafs follower understands additions – and subtractions – must be made. To the latter point, it’s my view that Babcock and Phil Kessel cannot co–exist. You won’t hear that from the coach during his introductory news gathering, but it’s an oil–and–water concoction. Babcock is nobody’s Mr. Nice Guy. He kicks ass more deliberately than any coach in the business and will not tolerate a player that pouts. Or, one that views himself differently than Babcock does… Kessel has never responded to a kick and Babcock isn’t one to administer a shoulder massage. Nor will he habitually reward a lazy performer with ice time, as did Randy Carlyle and Peter Horachek. This is an unholy alliance and it must somehow be annulled before training camp begins in September.”

Happy Independence Day to our American friends and allies.

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NHL MEDIA GUIDES — PART 10

Next up in my collection–series from 50 years of NHL media guides, an appropriate team after the Phil Kessel trade this week:

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

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LOGOS OF THE EXPANDED NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE GRACED THE COVER OF PITTSBURGH’S FIRST MEDIA GUIDE — ALONG WITH THE CLUB’S COACH, GEORGE (RED) SULLIVAN.

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LES BINKLEY WAS THE PENGUINS NO. 1 GOALIE IN THEIR EARLY YEARS AND PICTURED ON THE SECOND MEDIA GUIDE (TOP–LEFT) IN 1968–69. BINKLEY IS NOW 81 YEARS OLD.

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RED KELLY PLAYED CENTER ON TORONTO’S STANLEY CUP TEAMS IN THE 1960’s AND THEN BECAME FIRST COACH OF THE LOS ANGELES KINGS IN 1967–68. HE MOVED TO PITTSBURGH IN 1969–70 AND WAS NAMED COACH–OF–THE–YEAR BY THE SPORTING NEWS, AS FEATURED ON THE ’70–71 GUIDE. THE JACK ADAMS AWARD WOULDN’T BE HANDED OUT UNTIL 1974.

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THE EVER–EVOLVING PENGUINS LOGO GRACED MEDIA GUIDE COVERS IN YEARS 5 AND 6.??

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THIS GUIDE COVER HAD A DISTINCTLY 1970’s LOOK, DIDN’T IT?

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VETERAN CENTER AND TEAM CAPTAIN RON SCHOCK LED THE 1974–75 PENGUINS WITH A CAREER–BEST 86 POINTS, EARNING HIM THE MEDIA GUIDE COVER IN 1975–76 (TOP–LEFT). THE HIGH–SCORING PENGUINS OF THE MID–70’s WERE LED BY PIERRE LAROUCHE, SYL APPS. JR. AND JEAN PRONOVOST — PICTURED ON THE ’76–77 GUIDE.

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DEFENCEMAN DAVE BURROWS (TOP–LEFT) WAS A PITTSBURGH STALWART IN THE 70’s WHILE CENTER OREST KINDRACHUK (TOP–RIGHT) HAD WON CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUPS WITH PHILADELPHIA BEFORE COMING TO THE PENGUINS IN 1978.

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FORMER MAPLE LEAFS GEORGE FERGUSON (LEFT) AND RANDY CARLYLE WERE ON THE 1979–80 PENGUINS GUIDE, HAVING BEEN TRADED FOR DAVE BURROWS (JUNE 14, 1978).

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THE PENGUINS CHANGED COLORS TO START THE 1980’s — FROM LIGHT AND DARK–BLUE TO BLACK AND GOLD — WHICH CORRESPONDED WITH THE FOOTBALL STEELERS AND BASEBALL PIRATES. ANOTHER EX–MAPLE LEAF, FORWARD RICK KEHOE, WAS ON THE 1980–81 MEDIA GUIDE. HE WOULD SCORE A CAREER–HIGH 55 GOALS FOR THE PENGUINS THAT SEASON.

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THE LEAF TRADES LOOKED PRETTY AWFUL ON THE COVER OF THE 1981–82 PENGUINS GUIDE.

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BEGINNING OF THE MARIO LEMIEUX ERA IN PITTSBURGH.

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COVER OF THE 20th ANNIVERSARY PENGUINS MEDIA GUIDE IN 1986–87.

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ALL MARIO ONCE AGAIN. LEMIEUX’S 70 GOALS AND 168 POINTS IN ’87–88 EARNED HIM THE FIRST OF THREE HART TROPHIES. NO. 66 WOULD REGISTER A CAREER–BEST 199 POINTS IN 1988–89 BUT FINISH SECOND TO WAYNE GRETZKY IN HART BALLOTING.

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THE PITTSBURGH FRONT OFFICE WAS FEATURED IN ARTWORK ON THE 1990–91 MEDIA GUIDE. COACH BOB JOHNSON (TOP), ADVISER SCOTTY BOWMAN (LEFT) AND GM CRAIG PATRICK (RIGHT) WOULD TAKE THE CLUB TO ITS FIRST OF CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONSHIPS — A SIX–GAME TRIUMPH OVER THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS.

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MEDIA GUIDE COVERS CELEBRATING THE PENGUINS STANLEY CUP TITLES IN 1991 AND 1992 — THE LATTER, A FOUR–GAME SWEEP OF THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS.

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AMONG THE GREATEST ONE–TWO FORCES IN MODERN NHL HISTORY — JAROMIR JAGR (TOP) AND MARIO LEMIEUX — DECORATED THE PENGUINS 30th ANNIVERSARY GUIDE.

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BETWEEN 1995 AND 2000, JAGR WON THE ART ROSS TROPHY AS NHL POINTS LEADER FOUR TIMES, INCLUDING THREE CONSECUTIVELY (1997–98 TO 1999–2000). LEMIEUX WON IT THE OTHER TWO YEARS. THIS ART ROSS SWEEP WAS COMMEMORATED ON PITTSBURGH MEDIA GUIDES (ABOVE AND BELOW), AS WAS JAGR’S ROLE (TOP–LEFT) IN HELPING THE CZECH REPUBLIC WIN GOLD AT THE 1998 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES IN NAGANO, JAPAN.

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FROM ANDY BATHGATE TO MARIO LEMIEUX — THE PENGUINS 35th ANNIVERSARY GUIDE.

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THE SIDNEY CROSBY ERA BEGAN AFTER THE LOST NHL SEASON OF 2004–05 — CANCELED BY LABOR STRIFE — WHEN PITTSBURGH WON A DRAW FOR THE NO. 1 DRAFT PICK.

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MY TWO MOST RECENT PENGUINS MEDIA GUIDES. IN ONLY HIS SECOND NHL SEASON (2006–07), CROSBY WON THE ART ROSS AND HART TROPHIES WITH 36 GOALS, 84 ASSISTS AND 120 POINTS. IN 2007–08, CROSBY WOULD HAVE 27 POINTS IN 20 PLAYOFF GAMES AS PITTSBURGH LOST THE STANLEY CUP FINAL TO MIKE BABCOCK’S DETROIT RED WINGS.

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6 comments on “Might Leafs Already Have Their GM?

  1. Nobody, but nobody predicted the Leafs would get ANYTHING for Kessel before the trade was made. Go back and look. After the trade the armchair critics (in fandom and in the media) come out of the woodwork.
    This is another example of the impossible environment people like Dubas and Shanahan have to function in. It’s nice to read at least one journalist in this city pointing out the positive. If you want to read someone constantly pissing on the parade Dave go read Steve Simmons.

  2. Yes, Leafs traded Kessel. However, did they get enough or did they simply want to dump him? If it was the latter, as it obviously appears, then my uncle could have completed the deal. Not much GMing there. Having been in business for many years, the one thing you don’t want to hear is “Let me talk to your boss, kid” or “Tell your boss to ring me”. If it a serious rebuild, a serious GM is required. Nepotism should not influence coaching appointments as it has thus far. Not impressed thus far.

  3. I am not journalistically trained in sentence structure, just an avid leaf fan asking simple questions.

  4. I always read and enjoy your work. Am extremely disappointed that you don’t answer simple questions from your followers like others do.

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