Toronto Maple Leafs Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas spoke to the media via conference call today to discuss changes made to the Toronto Marlies coaching staff. Here's what he had to say...
Thanks everyone for joining us on short notice. This has been a very difficult decision to make in terms of how to proceed with the Marlies. It was a decision that was made collectively between myself, Brendan Shanahan and Mark Hunter. After a lot of discussion after the series ended against Grand Rapids, we have decided today to move ahead with the search for a new head coach. The decision was based on the fact we're undergoing, as everybody knows, a big organizational shift in philosophy and part of that is wanting to bring on an elite, young coach that we can groom along here. It's our intention, as was outlined, that Gord would remain as an associate coach as he was previously and work with our defence and help us to groom that coach along. I think a lot of the job Gord and his staff did this year, the season did not get off well with the Marlies. They stuck with it and they stuck by developing our young players and in the end the team made the playoffs, which we were very happy about. The decision today is reflective of that organizational shift that was outlined previously.
Why was it such a difficult decision?
When a team has a poor year, it's easy to make a decision like this or when a team is really struggling it's easy. When a team has a season like the Marlies had where we started off poorly and the staff and players really came together as we shifted to a younger team and got to the ideology we wanted to use with the Marlies moving ahead, the team started having success and made the playoffs. If we had gone through and had a poor year it would have been easy, but because of the fact we did make the playoffs it made it more difficult.
What is the philosophy you want? What is the shift as you see it?
The shift is there are strong incentives for organizations in the NHL to develop elite coaches within. There's an incentive system and a compensation system whereby if we are grooming our own coaches, that goes from Orlando to the Marlies and all the way to the 29 other NHL clubs where we hope we're developing coaches that other teams want to pay us draft picks to one day hire. I think if you look at the coaches that have been in that realm recently, they're all younger coaches that find their way up and that's our philosophy that we're looking to do here in Toronto.
When you talk about developing elite coaches from within, do you look at (Lightning coach) Jon Cooper as the embodiment of what you'd like to build?
We're in a position now where we're reaching out to other organizations and we're looking outside to hire a coach, it's our same philosophy that we're at with our players now. We want to be developing players from within and that was our entire philosophy with the Marlies. We turned it over to those young players and we developed and we want to continue to be that type of team where it's not only organizationally with players but with coaches and, as Brendan would say, with management. We want to be developing people. We want to become an elite developer of hockey in general. That includes players, on-ice product and strategy, coaches, managers, etc. Jon Cooper is one example but there are many good, young coaches in the American League that are gaining interest and Jon's the best example because he's still coaching in the NHL playoffs right now. He's one you want to look to and one I would agree with.
Is there are a quality in that coach you think you need?
He wins and he develops. That makes it simple.
What kind of process did you go through making this decision?
Since the Marlies have been eliminated, it was a process between Mark, Brendan and myself where we really discussed it at length amongst one another both in Las Vegas at our amateur scouting meetings when we were there and last week, getting back to work again, Mark all throughout North America has been watching CHL playoffs and Brendan and myself at the World Championships. As we're working away and trying to build our program here we've always come back to discussing the coaching situation, the Marlies and what we wanted to do. It was a couple of weeks of thorough debate and discussion and analysis of what was the best way to move forward. As we've done here in the last month and a half, we've collectively come to a decision and moved ahead in a productive manner.
Have you discussed the Marlies vacancy with (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds coach) Sheldon Keefe?
I have not discussed it with Sheldon Keefe. We sought permission from Sault Ste. Marie yesterday and were granted it. I will discuss it with Sheldon but he is not the only coach we will discuss it with. We are in the process of seeking permissions elsewhere as well.
Has Gord Dineen formally accepted the associate position?
I don't think today was the day for that with Gord. Gord is one of the most wonderful people I've worked with in hockey and an extremely hard worker, proud of the year he had there as he should be. What I said to Gord was, 'This is where we're at, we want you to be here, we want you as a part of our organization.' I don't think today was the day to put it on to Gord for a yes or no. I would imagine some other teams may want to talk to him and we're fine with that. We would like to have him back in that role as the associate coach. We really value Gord and what he brings to our organization in every regard. We'll see how it goes. Once we find a head coach, we'll let them sit with Gord and see if Gord is comfortable. If Gord is comfortable and other opportunities haven't arisen for him, we'll move ahead with that.