Dubas Has Sealed His Fate

TORONTO (Feb. 18) — Champagne corks are popping in Leafs Nation today… led, of course, by the cheerleading, club–owned media. General manager Kyle Dubas has finally “swung for the fence” in executing the most–remarkable trade for the club since Cliff Fletcher acquired Doug Gilmour 31 years ago. Ryan O’Reilly is “exactly the player the Leafs need” for a deep playoff run. The GM has finally “gone all in” to push his team over the top.

And, other–such platitudes, most of them predictable (or nauseating).

So, now the truth: Unless the long–failed nucleus of the Maple Leafs catches fire in a bottle for the first time, this trade will not only seal the fate of Dubas, but go down as one of the most–destructive since Brian Burke sold the farm for Phil Kessel. In O’Reilly, the Leafs have obtained a player four years past his prime, which is the median juncture for most Toronto acquisitions (Mark Giordano being last season’s example, but the list is long). Though he authored an impressive playoff narrative with St. Louis in 2019, O’Reilly evidently wanted to stay with the Blues; is almost certainly a rental component; is having, far and away, the worst season of his career… and does nothing to solve the Leafs’ glaring issues on defense and in goal. For that, Dubas relinquished whatever is left of the club’s immediate draft future: a first and second–rounder this year. Toronto doesn’t have a pick until Round 5.

Only in our daft hockey market, where fans and media are pleading for a smidgen of playoff success and want so–desperately to believe the club is moving in an upward trajectory, could this be a “swing for the fence.”

From my perspective, it’s more like an infield single, in which the runner will soon be picked off first base.

As for those who suggest Dubas isn’t done before the trade deadline… well, it’s difficult to comment on a deal that hasn’t been made. But, not nearly as difficult to dread, from a Leafs perspective, what might come next.


Part of the illusionary belief system here in Toronto is that the Maple Leafs have traded for the Ryan O’Reilly of 2019: the player who amassed a career–high 77 points in the regular season, then put up 23 more in 26 playoff games, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and leading the Blues to their lone Stanley Cup title. Actuality would suggest, however, that Dubas has no more acquired that O’Reilly than he did the Norris Trophy version of Giordano a year ago. O’Reilly sustained a fractured foot while blocking a shot against Minnesota on Dec. 31. He missed 14 games and returned last Saturday for a 6–5 overtime victory at Arizona. In 40 appearances this season, he has 12 goals and 19 points. Most–astonishing for the former Selke Trophy winner is a pitiful minus–24 on a team that has thrown in the towel, but is hardly an embarrassment at 26–25–3… on a three–game win streak.

Bryan Murphy follows the Blues for The Sporting News website. He recently wrote this about the new Toronto player: “O’Reilly, 31, has been one of the team’s top centers since joining the organization back in 2018, but is in the middle of a down year, along with the team. [He is] averaging 18:16 time on ice, the lowest in his five–year career in St. Louis. In addition, he has not been as efficient in the faceoff dot, which is typically one of his strengths. His 53.4 faceoff win percentage is the lowest mark in his time with the Blues.”

How, may I ask, do the abovementioned paragraphs translate into Kyle Dubas “swinging for the fence?” And, how can he not have harmed the Maple Leafs, long–term, by trading first–round picks in 2019, 2022 and 2023 — the first two as mistake covers for the club signing Patrick Marleau and Petr Mrazek? Unless the Leafs pose a Stanley Cup challenge this spring, Dubas will not be retained and his term as GM will be viewed among the worst in franchise history. To wit: an inability, despite inheriting William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, to craft a playoff resume while draining the club, virtually every year, of its top draft choices. Matthew Knies remains the No. 1 Leaf prospect as a modest, point–per–game winger at the University of Minnesota. If, however, there’s a Maple Leafs fan who can remind me of the last American college draftee to star for the club, I’d appreciate the info.

So, buy in, if you wish, to the media love–fest in the wake of Friday night’s deal. But, understand that Dubas again tinkered with the fringe of the roster… and that any form of playoff success (here in Toronto, clearly a first–round victory) remains contingent upon the big–money boys up front finally coming through when it matters.

O’Reilly is a character player and will obviously not hurt the Leafs; not as much, to be sure, as Dubas yielding his first and second–round draft picks in June. But, neither has the Clinton, Ont. native (now 32) shown, this season, to be anywhere near the player that helped lift St. Louis to the 2019 Stanley Cup. Ignore that at your own peril.


24 comments on “Dubas Has Sealed His Fate

  1. The real crime here is allowing Dubas & Shanny to devoid our system of prospects and picks just like you would expect from a team coming off back to back cup wins, not a team who hasn’t won a round in 6 years!!!
    They should have been fired long ago!! I’m sick over what they’ve done to this franchise. Shanny especially disappoints me after the career he had and the way he played.

    1. Only in the NHL can a high school graduate become president of a $2B company. Think Shanny has the business knowledge to run a company of the Leafs magnitude outside of hockey? Yes, that was rhetorical. Last great president of the Leafs was Dryden, he went to law school. BB did too, but he was and always will be the worst- Great article btw HB ?.

  2. Glaring issues on defense in goal? Thery are top 5 in goals against and goals against average despite having major injury issues all year in defense and goal.

  3. I wonder if Dubas made the first-round pick lottery protected? Ask Florida if a high performing team can have a serious letdown. not to mention the Tom Kurvers pick that turned out to be Scott Neidermayer, the Wendel Clark returns pick that turned into Roberto Luongo or Burke’s Tyler Seguin and Doug Hamilton give-away. The leafs have a history of flopping spectacularly when expectations are at their highest.
    Dubas said that he traded the picks because he didn’t want to give up his prospects. I think other teams recognize the leafs prospects as being a whole bunch of itty-bitty-nothing-specials and/or Dubas is intoxicated by the scent of his own flatulence. The ONLY capital the leafs ever seem to trade is draft picks, and I think it’s telling that virtually all of their AHL callups are inconsequential and provide ZERO impact.
    Expecting a 20 year old college player (Nies) with reportedly average skating skill to come in during the playoffs and become an impactful NHL player is beyond usual blue and white fantasy and into delusion.
    While ROR may have something left in the tank, I don’t think he compensates for questionable goaltending and weak & passive defensemen. Additionally, whatever competitive intangibles he brings it appears to me that the core 3 or 4 if you include Reilly are immune to the prodding’s of veterans. How else do you explain the yearly face-plant as they’ve acquired said veteran presence every season?
    I really, really WANT to be wrong, but I still think they lose in fewer than 7 games to an experienced and more physical Tampa team that will be motivated to prove that they’re better than the leafs.
    Prior to this trade I thought that if the leafs fail in the 1st or 2nd round a case could be made to keep Dubas. With this trade I think you have to ditch him. He’s obviously so committed to HIS point of view about the team that there’s no going back. If they fail again and he’s retained I would fully expect that he’d roll this group back again with tinkering around the edges and more aggravating platitudes about “game of inches”, “believing in this group”, “learning lessons” and the steaming pile piece-de-resistance “Respect in the handshake line.”

  4. Yikes.

    Flushing draft picks down the dumper for over-the-hill players on expiring contracts is a sure fire way to get fired. Howard, your suggestion of Marner for Karlsson would have been a better fit.

    1. Erik Karlsson for Mitch Marner is the most asinine proposal that I have heard and you mentioned it. That makes the Leafs better how? Its like the Oilers trading Draisatl for Karlsson. Trust us Connor it makes us better. What a joke. The Leafs may not be to your liking…fine watch someone else. But in my 60 years of being a fan, I have seen lots of good and stupid moves. Draft picks vs prospects….its prospects every time. If it doesnt work then Dubas, Keefe are finished and Matthews, and Nylander will walk away. I hope not and have faith that will not happen. Sometimes you just have to believe. I do, obviously you dont.

      1. Of course it’s asinine. Because the Leafs-owned media has brainwashed you into thinking the Core-4 can win something without an elite defenseman. If you ask how Karlsson could make the Leafs better, you invented the word “asinine”.

        1. Karlsson makes them better but NOT for Marner. Or Draisatl for that matter. Trading an extremely talented player for another does not make you better, just different. One thing I would say is that Salming in his prime was better than anyone playing the game today, including Hedman and Karlsson, who would be fodder for the Broad Street bullies. You dont trade for those, you find and develop them.

  5. Regardless of what you think of the Leafs, Dubas, Toronto sports writers or whoever, let’s be a little fair here to Ryan O’Reilly. Yes he’s having a down year, no question. The year before, he had 21 goals, 56 points was a plus 11 and had 12 points in 12 playoff games. Those playoff games were only 10 months ago; I don’t think he’s aged that much. He’s only 32. Referring to him as past his prime is very premature

  6. Howard, I respectfully disagree with your position on this trade.
    Lamenting that the Leafs have up draft capital is short sighted. Dubas has to win NOW or he is done regardless.
    Why would he care about the future and quite honestly as a fan base we have been talking about the future since 1967 if you get my drift.
    O’Reily is a Stanley Cup winner, Selke winner and Conn Smythe winner. Pretty good pedigree.
    Perhaps he can show the stale core of the Leafs what it takes to win a cup.
    My point is Dubas has to win this year, not next year or the year after. He is gambling now because that is all he has
    Finally, a point that no one has even brought up anywhere is Brendan Shanahan’s culpability for this team including the O’Reilly trade. I am quite sure he has to sign off on most transactions. Dubas is not operating as an island unto himself with mo checks and balances.
    Remember the noise about the Shanaplan. I would submit there was never a firm strategic plan.
    So, like you I don’t like giving up draft capital either, but Dubas’s job is on the line whether he makes this trade or not.

    1. If Dubas has to win NOW, he’d better find an elite defenseman and a proven playoff goalie (from the past half-decade, not Murray). He did not acquire the Ryan O’Reilly of 2019, as so many hopeful Leaf fans want to believe.

  7. When I heard this last night at work, it did nothing for me other than saying this is not the answer. I wish Mark Hunter was retained instead of Dubas. For a guy who played for numerous championships Shanahan just doesn’t get it.

  8. Howard,

    Even Steve Simmons, one of the few media folks that you actually respect for not blowing Leafs horns ALL the time, could hardly contain himself, claiming on twitter “Huge acquisition for the Maple Leafs – getting Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from St Louis/Minny and somehow Kyle Dubas got the Blues and Wild to foot most of the bill. O’Reilly is exactly the kind of player Toronto needs.”

    Apparently, and to your point, either Mr. Simmons thinks we are still stuck in 2019, OR, he genuinely believes giving up a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th round pick for a 32 year old rental/3rd line center is “exactly” what the Leafs needed to do.

    I also encourage you to see the “analysis” Craig Button gave on TSN immediately after the trade was announced. He was soooo enthusiastic, I honestly thought his head would explode and blue maple leaves will splash all over. Just unbelievable.

    Thank you, Howard, as always for bringing SANE views when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

  9. With less than two weeks remaining before the trade deadline, we can only hope that Dubas isn’t finished tweaking his lineup vis-a-vis defence and goaltending.

  10. The delusional Leafs fan base are all clapping like trained seals this morning because ‘honest’ Luke Fox (of Sportsnet) told them Dubas is swinging for the fences. I laughed when I read the headline for his article. If they were swinging for the fences and emptying the draft cupboard, you need to put together a package to get a championship caliber defenseman to give them a chance with their existing talent up front. It’s laughable watching and reading the sales job by the Toronto media.

    1. Don’t kid yourself. No Leafs fan over the age of five would fall for the drivel from Luke Fox. He can write well enough, but he’s a fan boy – precisely what the team-owned website insists upon.

  11. That’s pretty much my analysis on this trade. Tons of draft capital for a solid veteran, but well past his prime. I was hoping that there are underlying stats that I’m just not educated enough to see. This just feels like the Foligno trade all over again. Pay a lot for a role player. Even worse, they gave up pretty much everything they could trade, meaning there will be no substantial defenceman coming to town. Somehow Dubas thinks that this D-core is capable of winning a Cup. He just doesn’t get it.

  12. Call it a ‘Hail Mary’ if you must, but one does what one must when failure is no longer an option. This is not the year to play it safe, as Dubas has obviously concluded.

  13. Spot on analysis Mr. Berger. I find it hard to understand, in this age of numbers and analytics, that getting a player like ROR would be prudent. And the media take on this transaction? Ugly.
    Blues’ fans hockey boards are laughing all the way to the bank today and will be for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.