At this point, you all know what went down today. The Toronto Maple Leafs started their morning by firing the big names; Dave Nonis, Peter Horachek, and most of their coaching staff. Still not finished, they followed up by firing a reported eighteen members of their professional and amateur scouting staff. On the management end of things, Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter will take the reigns until a new General Manager is found. But can they pull it off?
There’s a glaring variable at play here that could make the entire question useless, and that’s time. Obviously, nothing is imminent, but the search is definitely on for a new general manager. If they’ve zeroed in on a target and that person is willing, their additional responsibilities may be limited to “answer four more questions on locker room cleanout day”. But let’s run with the assumption that this lasts until after the draft.
If this is the case, the two headed monster will have a couple of core assignments. They’re going to have to focus on selling off the assets they couldn’t shed at the trade deadline, and they’ll have to run the table at this year’s draft in Florida.
The first could come as a challenge. After all, both are very recent graduates to the NHL game. Dubas comes from the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds and Hunter did just about everything in London for the Kinghts. But the OHL is a very different beast. You’re picking up players for as many as twenty years, not four. You’ve got salary caps and farm teams, and levels of free agency.
Thankfully, neither has just been sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Both have learned the ropes from those surrounding them, and likely have an idea how this league works by now. Sure, those surrounding them have been fired, but that’s a matter of philosophy and results, rather than an understanding of logistics. As well, the Leafs made the logical conclusion in keeping fellow assistant Brandon Pridham, who knows the ins and outs of the Collective Bargaining Agreement better than just about anybody on the planet. If there is a concept that is foreign to them, they know where to go to.
On a player evaluation standpoint, leaving it in the hands of them is probably a blessing before it is a curse. They haven’t had long term attachments to the core in the way that Nonis, the man who built it, did. Some emotion may come into play, fresh eyes lead to a more clinical process.
The draft is a different story, in a positive way. Their recent attachment to the amateur game is an asset; they’re very familiar with a lot of the players that they could potentially take, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubas’ increased “say” leads to additional input from the research and development team, who, as we’ve seen from their work in their previous lives, have some radically different, forward-thinking philosophies when it comes to approaching the draft. Barring that, Dave Morrison will still be around to support them, at least for the time being.
Another thing that could come out of the draft? The response once the final selections are made. Take the Toronto Marlies for example; they’ve taken chances on a close to a dozen undrafted free agents this year. Dubas recently suggested that he’s looking at a three tier system moving forward; where even the Orlando Solar Bears get treated seriously. A wave of AHL/ECHL two way contracts for players who miss out on the draft for the last time is almost guaranteed.
In the end, while the staff isn’t exactly the supergroup they were a few hours ago, that could end up being a positive. It’s easier to get a small group on the same page, and most of the recent hires seem to be on a more forward-thinking page. Even without philosophies aside, their eyes are cleaner from bias than the old group. With the support with remains, low expectations, and a simple goal, I have full confidence that these two should be able to handle the job for the time being.
Photo Courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com