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Maple Leafs' Dubas on analytics, publicity and more

by Dan Rosen

Kyle Dubas' stock in the hockey world soared during the summer as he went from a bright, young executive in the Ontario Hockey League to a bright, young executive in the National Hockey League in what seemed like a blink of an eye.

Dubas, the assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs, sat down with for a 20-minute interview inside Air Canada Centre at the start of training camp. He talked about everything his new job has to offer, including the challenges.

Some of what he spoke about was included in a feature on the developing three-way relationship between Dubas, Toronto president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Dave Nonis.

Here are five questions and answers that were left on the proverbial editing-room floor. It's Dubas talking about the publicity he has received since being hired in July and labeled as the Maple Leafs' new analytics guru, analytics in general, how he is integrating change into the organization and more:

On defining analytics and using them with Nonis, Shanahan and Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle:

"Analytics is a term everyone uses, but right now hockey is at such a primitive stage. People want to use the term analytics or sabremetrics because that's what baseball does and baseball is the most advanced. But hockey is at such a primitive stage and we're just beginning to know which metrics are meaningful and which ones are noise. We're still in those beginning stages of it. So with them [Nonis, Shanahan and coach Randy Carlyle] it's been educating. Here's what we can measure, here's what it does measure, and a lot of it, because they've had such great careers in hockey, intuitively they know it. It's just trying to add more backup and data to it."

On his thoughts on the best way to integrate change into an organization:

"I think you have to sit down with everybody, and in my case it's a bit easier because I've worked in hockey every day since I was 11 years old so I come from a hockey and scouting and hockey operations background. I know the way a coach's office runs, a dressing room runs, a hockey office runs. So it's just trying to not be abrasive about it, to slowly integrate it in, and when everybody is asking questions not to scoff and be pompous about it. Some of these terms and things that we're measuring people are unfamiliar with and it's up to us educate and integrate them into the organization."

On if he's been embarrassed by the amount of publicity he has received, which is far more than normal for an assistant GM even though he is the youngest in the League at 29 years old:

"Yeah, I do [get embarrassed]. At times it's been a little bit overwhelming and really I guess embarrassing. I have never won a thing in hockey. It's come to a point of being a battle in the media because you have some people in the media who are anti-analytics and stats and some people who are pro. They fight with each other and that whips it up into a frenzy. When a team hires someone who is pro-analytics these guys say, 'I told you so,' and the other media take a stance and they just fight with one another. That creates the publicity for it, but I haven't won anything in hockey."

On why he thinks fans and media jumped to the conclusion that Shanahan hired him without input from Nonis, who was not present at the press conference to announce Dubas' hiring:

"Brendan came on in April and whenever someone new comes into a position of power they expect change and they expect it's going to be that new person bringing his guys in. Dave's son had an operation the day I was announced and Dave wasn't there, so even though they announced that before people said, 'OK, sure, whatever Dave should have been there.' I think that's nonsense. If we ever hire anybody and I'm supposed to be there but one of my family members has an operation, I'm not going to be there. That's just the way it is. I think that's why it took that life to it. It's just noise. It doesn't bother Dave or Brendan. It's something for people to talk about."

On if he believes the Maple Leafs will change into a team that tries to cycle in the offensive zone a lot more because of analytics:

"We didn't talk specifically about the style the team was going to play. In talking to Brendan and Dave they wanted us to have better players. They started before I got here by adding [Petri] Kontiola and [Mike] Santorelli, and bringing back Leo Komarov. We didn't get into the style of play we want to execute, but now having talked with the coaches I know we want to be a team that plays with more skill and makes more plays, exits our zone with control, enters the opposition's zone with control. I think that lends itself to more shots and more offense. Everyone, especially from the analytics side, they look at teams that have performed well by those measures and they look at Chicago and L.A., but they are two totally different offensive teams. L.A. plays more of that [grinding, cycle] style and Chicago plays more of a rush style with tremendous speed and skill. There is not just one way to do it. There are many ways to be successful and I think our coaching staff is on the right track."


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