Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas joined Brady and Walker on Sportsnet 590 The FAN on Monday to talk about the Leafs prep for the 2015 NHL Draft. You can listen to the interview in its entirety HERE
Here's what he had to say...
On the Marlies run to the playoffs as a positive for the players and coaches:
I think so, especially because of who the players are that have really pushed the team forward in the second half, particularly after the trade deadline at the NHL level. The team has been really driven by Connor Brown, William Nylander, Brendan Leipsic and so on and so forth. It has been really nice for us to watch from a management perspective as our young players have pushed it ahead and they've gotten great effort from Matt Frattin who has been on fire down the stretch here and bodes well. He has another year left on his contract with us next year and it's a strong sign leading into the offseason for him. Now it's an excellent opportunity for these players in the playoffs to go in against an extremely good and talented Grand Rapids team and show us where they really stack up against an elite organization in the NHL with Detroit and Grand Rapids. It's an excellent opportunity for everybody.
On weighing playoff experience as a benefit for young players vs. spending additional time in the gym:
I think we, as an organization, we're really trying to shift to make sure we're doing all we can in-season. The narrative, and I dealt with it little a bit in Sault Ste. Marie, was that the player is to come in in excellent shape and we'd try to make sure he didn't fall off too much from a strength and conditioning standpoint during the season. One of the things we tried to build in there is there is a lot of opportunity during the year to not only build in programs that would prevent injury but also maintain and build on their strength base. With us having so many young players there, being the youngest team in the American Hockey League, we realize that a lot of the players do have a lot of room to grow physically and need to mature physically. The onus is, sure, partially on the player but as the organization we have them in every day. It falls on us to make sure we have the proper programs and nutrition and strength and conditioning in place so the players can get stronger during the year. The games that are played are an excellent opportunity for the players to take ownership of the Marlies and have a real stake in our organization. If it were a team that were built like your proverbial quadruple-A baseball team that had a lot of guys that had their NHL prospects end but were really good minor league players, I think we'd feel differently about going on a long run in the playoffs because of the players that are driving the bus here. As long as they can go I think only serves to help their development as players. The games are obviously going to become a lot more difficult and a lot more challenging and as young prospects if they can continue to maintain their level of output, to me, that's a great sign for the future of our organization and hockey fans in Toronto.
On his experience watching the draft lottery:
I was in Rockford with the Marlies in the coaches room watching it. Very honestly, I wasn't anxious about it at all. We had the greatest chance of ending up picking fifth. Once Carolina's card came up at fifth I said, 'That's a little bit of good fortune either way.' We were either going to pick fourth or first. For me, the way I've looked at this draft, we knew we were going to get a good pick. We knew we weren't going to pick lower than fifth. The focus for us and where we have to become a great organization is on the second pick, the Nashville pick, that we got in the trade for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. We have to make a good pick and hit on that one and that's where our focus has been. We know it's going to be in the mid-20s. That's where myself and Mark Hunter have been spending a lot of our time is tracking those players that are in that range and making sure we find a player that fits our identity of where we're going as an organization and we're certain is going to be a guy that has a chance to come in and be a big time player for us, either forward, defence or goaltender. That we're confident that can be not just someone that is a safe pick that we know that will play low in our lineup but a really good player. I think if you look at the organizations now that are able to find real good players late in the first and that's what we want to become. Having that pick is a great opportunity for us.
On if he knew who he'd take if he had to pick fourth overall today:
You've got to narrow it down to a few players. I don't believe in the whole song and dance and saying, 'We haven't had our meeting yet and we don't know where we're sitting.' We spent the whole year scouting these players, our scouting staff has been in the rink since early August and the Team Canada camp trying to narrow it down to the top players. As the year goes along you add to your sample size and viewings and really get down to a few guys, especially where we're picking at four, they have slotted in. You kind of know who the first two picks are going to be and you kind of know who the players are coming up behind them. So whether you've got, I think everyone knows who they are, Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Mitchell Marner, Pavel Zacha, Matthew Barzal, Ivan Provorov, it's focusing in on that group of players and more, and really start to break them down and become as certain as you possibly can about each one and select the one we think is best for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On working with Brendan Shanahan and the front office this season:
It has evolved throughout the year and I've been here since the middle of July, Brandon Pridham came on a month later, Reid Mitchell has been here longer than anybody and he brings a lot of great value and experience to our staff as well. We had myself, Brendan, Dave, and we brought Mark Hunter in in late October. Especially over the last few months I've talked to Mark two or three times each day. We talk about players, we talk about trades, we talk about players we've seen for the draft, what's going on with different players. We talk about free agents and college and so on and so forth. We take that and present it. Formerly it was to Dave and to Brendan and now it's to Brendan. The way it has evolved in the last week is really three-way, four-way discussion about different topics. It's a really open dialogues, back-and-forth, agreeing and disagreeing, challenging one another. That has been a lot of fun. That was a the part I enjoyed the most about being in Sault Ste. Marie, especially with Sheldon Keefe, he and I could disagree on a whole host of topics, as I could with our staff there, whether it was Wes Clark or Victor Carneiro, it was never a group think, everyone resort to say yes. It was a lot of challenging and back and forth and that's what we have here. Even you disagree, people aren't disagreeing to be personal, they're disagreeing to make sure we're doing right by the Toronto Maple Leafs. That has been the most encouraging and fun part, especially of late. When I say of late, I go back to the trade deadline and the moves that we made then and having everybody involved, full discussion with one another and having everybody — even if they disagreed at first — understanding and accepting why we were doing things.
On the General Manager vacancy:
The way I look at it is I've never gone around and campaigned for a job. The way that I look at this position here is having it open allows for the Maple Leafs to add another really great and smart hockey person to our organization and I think we'd be remiss not to do that. I don't really wrapped up in the titles and who does what and whose boss is who. I think with where we're at as an organization we need to be adding the smart — the more people we have that are of elite intelligence and smarts from a hockey perspective and if they can add a different set of intelligence and look at things in a different way and make us all better, we need to do that. To me that's where it sounds like Brendan is going and I think that's great. Somebody that I can learn from and somebody that can make me a better hockey person and manager, that's what I find exciting. If we get through the summer and that person isn't there and whatever Brendan decides, I come everyday and do my job as the assistant manager as best as I possibly can. I've found it to be a great experience here working with Brendan and working with Mark and Brandon Pridham and Reid Mitchell and our staff here. It has been a lot of fun. I don't get wrapped up in where we're going or who we're hiring, I want us to have as many good and smart hockey people as possible. We'll see how it all unfolds as the summer goes along, but I know with Brendan running it he'll be very thorough and methodical and make the decision that's best for the Leafs.
On potentially notable changes to come to the roster:
I think Brendan said it best last week. We have a lot of very good players it just, for a number of reasons, hasn't worked here as a group. Whether it involves moving one or two of those players or all of those players or none of those players and trying to supplement the group here to try to move it ahead, we have to make trades. We can't just give people away, we can't just move them out because we know they're good players. If they go to a different situation or set of circumstances, they're going to be shown once again to be extremely good players. Their individual worth here gets brought down because of the lack of success of the team. When we're looking to make moves we have to separate those two. We can't slag the player internally and devalue them internally because the team hasn't had success here and we have to ask ourselves are there players that can supplement those guys and make the group better. Or, maybe we make the decision and say we'll tinker with it, move one or two guys out, give some other people an opportunity and continue to move this forward the right way. The only way we're going to go from being where we are to being a team that contends year in and year out, which is our goal, is continue to draft well, very, very well, and outdraft the other teams in the League and get to that point where every year we're at the top when you look back in five or six years when it's right to judge a draft. We're at the top of the list in terms of players who are playing and playing well and productive and we're doing an excellent job in developing players. Those two things are in lockstep. One doesn't work without the other. You have to draft well to give the development team their ability to get to work. That includes Steve Staios and his staff with our development department and our Marlies coaching staff and move it ahead that way. That's the key for us, no matter what happens at the NHL level, we need to really master the draft and developing and find our own unique way to beat all other 29 teams in that regard here.
On if he has taken anything away from early playoff action:
I think I always look at the playoffs as a time when people will especially hammer home the point that if you want to win in the playoffs you have to play like this team. And every year it changes depending on who is playing well. It's Chicago and it's skill and speed and puck possession. It's LA, it's retrieval and heavy game and D that are able to make plays and not an easy way to play. It's Boston, when they won it was traditional Bruins, Chara, Lucic, etc. Every year it changes. What our goal has to be is to find our own way to win so that we're that team in five or six years. People see us play and they say, 'That's how you have to win, you have to be like the Maple Leafs.' We have to come up with our own way of doing it. You take — to me if you try to copy one particular team, you're going to end up as an inferior version of that one team. You're not going to be able to do it as good as they did it. The playoffs are a great way to — all these teams are under the microscope and there are a lot of very good teams in the playoffs. You can try to find the best practices of those teams and apply them to your own team and patch it all together, plus add in your own perspective, your own things we want to do. That's to me what I find to be the most value in the playoffs. You find the things that are most effective or least effective that these teams are doing and we can learn from them and use them as an example as we go into the offseason. That's what I find to be valuable. I don't think we want to get into trying to copy another team because we'll never be as good as that team if we try to do it that way.
On if he'll watch the Erie/Sault Ste. Marie OHL Western Conference Final:
I don't have kids yet but I feel like it's like you watch it grow up, you help it and then you drop it off at university. When they need you they call and look for advice, you go visit them once and a while. It's been a lot of fun seeing the job Kyle Raftis and Sheldon have done in the Soo. I've only been able to see them play twice this year live but I still follow the team as much as possible and stay in touch with those guys almost daily. This is a big series against Erie and I know game three and four next Sunday and the following Tuesday are on Sportsnet. I watched the game in Erie about two months ago and it was a great game. They're both fast, highly skilled teams and it'll be very good hockey. That said, I definitely hope the Greyhounds win.