Brendan Shanahan began putting his stamp on the Toronto Maple Leafs by hiring 28-year-old Kyle Dubas as assistant general manager Tuesday.
Dubas spent the past three seasons as general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League; he used analytics and other advanced metrics to develop systems and construct a roster that helped the Greyhounds go from last place to first place in the Western Division in three years. He did so despite being the league's youngest general manager and the second-youngest in OHL history.
That was enough to attract the interest of Shanahan, who was hired as Maple Leafs president in April.
"I don't really care about someone's age," Shanahan said during a news conference at Air Canada Centre. "He has a work ethic. I'm just looking for talented people, and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I realized that this was somebody that was an extreme talent."
Shanahan said when he was hired he believed in embracing new ideas to help boost a franchise that has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once since 2004. Dubas fit that description.
"He's a worker. He's somebody who has applied what he knows in a practical sense," Shanahan said. "He's run a team. He's taken on the challenges. But he's not tied to any old ideas. At the same time, I think he's a very respectful and open person; one of the first things he said to me was that he felt this was a great opportunity for him to learn."
Dubas said even after Shanahan reached out to him, it "wasn't a slam dunk that I would pick up and go," but he made the move because he sees the opportunity to make a difference.
"I was enthused by my talks with Brendan, and even more enthused by my discussions with [general manager] Dave [Nonis] about where he sees the game going and evolving," Dubas said. "That was one of the more exciting parts of the entire process, knowing that I'd be able to come in and be heard and help out as much as possible and learn from Dave, who was a young assistant general manager when he came up."
Shanahan said the Maple Leafs' analytical approach needs to improve, and Dubas will be a key to blending old and new ideas into a winning formula.
"Not to reflect on the past regime, but I think he brings a fresh perspective," Shanahan said. "What's important to me is that he's not just talking about it, he's living it.
"He has a great appreciation and understanding of analytics. But he has also married that to the complexities and instincts you have to have when you put a product on the ice. We brought Kyle in to have a positive influence on our entire organization. Information is power, and Kyle is great at gathering information. It's not just one specific job for him; I think he's somebody that wants to be involved in a lot of things."
Toronto also announced the departure of Dave Poulin and Clause Loiselle from their front-office positions. Each was hired by former general manager Brian Burke and stayed on when he was replaced by Nonis in 2013.
Poulin served as vice president of hockey operations for the Maple Leafs, and Loiselle as vice president and assistant general manager. Shanahan said he was looking at other potential hirings "to make us as efficient as we can be as a club."