The Maple Leafs' search for a new GM didn't last very long, as team president Brendan Shanahan announced Friday Marlies GM and Leafs' assistant GM Kyle Dubas would be promoted to take the position. The job had been vacant for less than two weeks, with Shanahan revealing April 30th Lou Lamoriello would not be returning to the job for the 2018-19 season.
Shanahan and Dubas met with the media early Friday afternoon, and Shanahan noted that Dubas and fellow assistant GM Mark Hunter both were highly credible hockey people who vied for the position. But he ultimately went with the 32-year-old Dubas, who served as GM of the Ontario League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from 2011-12 to 2013-14. Dubas' successes with the Marlies - developing the organization's prospects while also keeping the American League franchise extremely competitive - were compelling reasons to offer him the job.
"I definitely examined prospects that were outside of our organization as well, but I also knew after working here for four years we had two incredible candidates in-house," Shanahan said of Dubas and Hunter. "As I interviewed with Mark and I interviewed with Kyle, it was reaffirmed to me that the answer lies within our own organization…I think there's an advantage in hiring somebody in-house as far as being up and running and continuing with the progress that we've had."
Dubas becomes the 17th GM in Leafs history, and the second-youngest the club has had, behind Gord Stellick, who was 30 years old when former team owner Harold Ballard hired him to run the franchise in 1988. Dubas compiled a 190-90-20-4 record as Marlies GM, and has helped groom eight current Leafs players - forwards Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo and William Nylander, and defencemen Connor Carrick and Travis Dermott - at the AHL level. Dubas is regarded as an open-minded, progressive team architect, and his work alongside Lamoriello and Hunter, among others, has him well-prepared to guide the Leafs to the next level of their competitive cycle.
"It was a difficult decision in that we had two such qualified people," Shanahan said. "Mark likes Kyle, he respects (Friday's) decision, he's got a lot of respect for Kyle. And now it's really up to (Kyle) and his staff to get together in the coming weeks and see how it all plays out."
Dubas has held many responsibilities since joining the Leafs, including managing the organization's player development unit and its research and development department. Like many of Toronto's players, Dubas stands out because of his youth, but he's accomplished an impressive amount in his four years with the Marlies: the team has appeared in two AHL conference finals and twice won the league's Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as its best regular-season squad.
Dubas sees a full slate ahead of him immediately, including focusing on the upcoming NHL draft and making moves regarding the Leafs' restricted and unrestricted free agents.
"It's a very young group as it is now," Dubas said Friday. "We have lots of decisions to make, and we'll take our time and go through our normal off-season as any team would. We'll gather in all of our people and do a full analysis of where we're at and…where we want to go, and we'll do that very thoroughly."
Dubas had a productive relationship with Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe, but he'll now be working with Leafs bench boss Mike Babcock. And Dubas foresees no issues in making that transition.
"I've always had a good relationship with Mike," Dubas said of Babcock. "We talk not just about hockey, but about all aspects of life - fatherhood, family and so on. I'm excited to get to work with Mike. I think the way he's perceived is that he's very open to ideas, he's very open to change, he's very open to trying to make the Leafs better, and that's really his only focus. So that's the way we're going to continue to move it ahead."
The Leafs' GM job is one of the most attractive in all of hockey, and there was no shortage of people who would've accepted the post. But Dubas knows the organization as well as anyone, and his ability to build bridges when it comes to hockey's major modern philosophical debate - analytics vs. an "old-school", eyeball-test approach - appealed to Shanahan, who gave Dubas a five-year contract as GM.
"To watch him over the last four years grow, to watch him work under some really esteemed people in our business - no job was too big for Kyle, no job was too small for Kyle," Shanahan said. "To see how he interacts with our fans and the respect level he has for the Maple Leafs, for the people that love the Maple Leafs, for everyone in our office… It gives me great pride to announce Kyle as the new GM."