If you watched the Toronto Maple Leafs post-trade deadline press conference, it appeared GM Kyle Dubas was frustrated. It could have been because he was unable to facilitate a trade on Monday (other than Michael Hutchinson), or it could be that he was irked by the team’s injury situation. Perhaps, he was choked that the media was hinting he might want to look in the mirror when it came to finding a place to lay blame on the way the Maple Leafs’ season has gone to date.
If it’s the latter, there’s a case to be made that Dubas should be forced to take responsibility. Dubas is catching some heat on Tuesday because he basically blamed the team’s lack of cap space and inconsistent for their lack of getting anything done.
People are asking the rhetorical question, ‘Whose fault is that?’
Certainly, an argument exists that injuries hurt. Then again, that excuse could be used by at least seven or eight GM’s in the same situation. For example, the Edmonton Oilers are without Oscar Klefbom, Kris Russell, Kailer Yamamoto, Joakim Nygard, and James Neal. Still, GM Ken Holland was able to make three different trades and improve the team even knowing he couldn’t guarantee cap space would remain available before the playoffs. Furthermore, the reality of the Oilers situation is that Holland inherited much of the cap issues in Edmonton.
Dubas could have gotten creative. He didn’t. Worse yet, his cap issues weren’t inherited. He created them.
Some pieces Kyle Dubas has already spent so the Maple Leafs can contend in 2020: a fire-the-coach card, 2019 and 2020’s first-rounders, three third-rounders, a fourth-rounder, Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Carl Grundstrom, Trevor Moore, Calle Rosen, Sean Durzi.
Yet, the Maple Leafs are barely hanging onto a playoff spot. Should they get in, there aren’t too many people that think they’ll make an extended run.
Dubas knows it too. He explained:
“There’s a lot of people that are writing the obituary for the team and putting the team into the ground. And that’s fine, that’s fair. So you can go meekly into the night and build the excuses for why it didn’t work out, or you fight your way back.”
The problem is, Dubas didn’t really fight on Monday. At least, not hard enough according to many. And, that leaves Toronto in a very tricky spot.
Dubas Signed Almost All of Toronto’s Heavy Contracts
John Tavares was signed by Dubas for top dollar as a free agent acquisition. William Nylander held out until he got what he was looking for. Auston Matthews was given a massive deal that will walk him right into free agency… As a result of his previous decisions, Dubas was left with little choice but to give Mitch Marner — the team’s leading point getter — almost exactly what he wanted. In short, Toronto’s big guns got all the money due to them. It’s hard to argue any of them signed team friendly deals.
So too, the only contracts it was rumored Dubas was looking at moving on Monday were value contracts like that of Kasperi Kapanen (a Kapanen trade was speculated only). He’d already moved Nazem Kadri and ironically, Dubas was trying to send away the return he got in that trade, Tyson Barrie. Does that suggest Dubas hadn’t learned his lesson?
Moves the Leafs Did Make
Credit where credit is due, Dubas did make a couple of good moves prior to the deadline. Adding Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell should be seen as astute decisions. Signing Jake Muzzin to a reasonable deal on Monday is also a win.
Still, many are suggesting it wasn’t enough and even more aren’t sure exactly is this team is.
With serious questions about what kind of compete level the Maple Leafs are bringing to table each night, Dubas had to recognize this group needed more motivation. That kind of player is not hard to find at the deadline. It’s also not hard to find for cheap.
The only argument Dubas can perhaps make is that he can’t make the players give a sh-t. He’s right there. That’s not the GM’s job. Then again, he hired the new coach and isn’t that the coach’s job?
Perhaps the most outlandish thing Dubas said Monday was that Toronto was in a lose/lose situation when it came to playing against and losing to emergency goaltender David Ayres. Kyle Dubas on Saturday’s loss: “If we won the game, that would be embarrassing as well, because you’re down 4-1 and then it would be a whole other set of controversy that would come up. Like, ‘Ah geez, the Maple Leafs’ [beat their] own employee.’ We were in a no-win situation.”
What? That may be one of the most incredibly strange excuses for not winning ever.
Personally, I don’t know if you can lay all the blame on Dubas but it seems clear he needs to take some of the responsibility. Maybe that’s what he was doing on Monday in his presser. I just can’t tell for sure and I’ve watched it a couple of times now.
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