TORONTO – Throwing a curveball while talking to minor hockey coaches over the weekend, Kyle Dubas didn’t blink.
He recalled every relevant detail of the decision that defined this year’s World Series, until the fact that Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell surrendered a single to Austin Barnes just before being pulled from a make-or-die game where he did ‘ d has been dominating largely due to data used by Major League Baseball’s biggest overachievers throughout the year.
Only Dubas saw Tampa’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers differently than most occupying a seat in the court of public opinion.
“They trusted the way they did,” he said. “I think if they had let Snell in and gone away from what they have always done, they might be a little more forgiving of the public and the media because it’s way more conventional of losing, but I don’t think they would ever forgive themselves because it would have been escaping the way they always have (done).
“I think if you really want to know if how you do things is going to be successful you have to see it all the way to the end, and at worst you will you can have the opportunity to change as you go into the future.
“And so in the end I think they did the right thing.”
When trying to interpret the arrival and actions of the Toronto Maple Leafs, this is an important opinion to consider. It is a view informed by serious research and on-the-job training.
Under Dubas, the Leaves have become a data-driven organization and have also accumulated some playoff scars.
Intellectually, the general manager who celebrated his 35th birthday on Sunday is a process-driven, patient man. But after watching his team fail to win a playoff series in each of the last four years, he has spent this unusual off-season reflecting in a hurry.
He didn’t see nearly that in the return-to-play qualifying game in August against Columbus where he felt the team’s talent should have allowed him to set terms. In the determined Game 1 and Game 5 of that series, he thought the Leaves were feeling things too much. It’s a trend that traced back to aspects of Boston’s successive first-round losses that came before it as well.
“We were on our heels and waiting to see what would happen in the game, rather than go out and attack the opportunity,” said Dubas, speaking to Ron MacLean as part of the annual Leaves coach clinic.
“I think part of it is maturing, I think part of it is experience, but I think those two things go into the mindset and what the group mindset is,” he added. “We must stop waiting. We just wait for our potential to happen and we have to start going out and practicing that and making it happen and forcing the other teams to respond to us. ”
This has already been communicated to players.
In the emotional days after the loss to the Blue Jackets, management controlled the trip to immaturity. But Dubas has come to consider it something more. As much as he believes in the importance of adding Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Bogosian and others to help boost his dressing room, he looks to see an even deeper change from the inside.
No other NHL team invests $ 40 million in four forwards – Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander – and none of them benefit more from having their stars embrace the greatest good.
“So much focus is sometimes put on bringing in one or two players and the impact they can have but the reality is if we have that level of competitiveness and grit and toughness, as we do terminate, is going to go through the locker room it’s going to be through the maturity of the group that’s already there, ”said Dubas.
“I think our core group embraces the fact that this is a great opportunity if they are willing to sacrifice a little in each of their own individual kingdoms like all young teams do with young supermarkets. Players have to go through this. There are so many examples from across sport and across different types of businesses. Then we will really reach our full potential. ”
There is no gray area in how that looks. The Leaves have a clear set of benchmarks in mind.
“If there’s a 50-50 puck, do you really want to win that puck every time? And are you ready to be the first one on the puck? Are you ready to go to the difficult parts of the ice with and without the puck and be successful? ”Said Dubas.
“Are you prepared to endure the physical compulsion that is going to come to you if we are going to go as far as we want to go? And do it every night through the regular season, but more importantly in the playoffs, and be able to score the way you have to score in the playoffs and defend the way you have to defend in the playoffs playoffs, and that is built up over time. . ”
Dubas said players have been given individual physical targets to hit for a training camp that could kick off in the coming weeks. He wants that to be the catalyst for a more productive regular season than his predecessors.
In retrospect, the GM sees a troubled pattern. Toronto could have avoided the Washington Capitals who won the President’s Trophy in the 2017 playoffs with a win at home in the final week of the regular season, and could have held home ice advantage against the Bruins for Game 7 in the following years. And in 2020 the Leaves could have done much better in the RTP if they had found more consistency.
Internal expectations are high for Toronto’s spin through the all-Canadian division.
With a full season of Sheldon Keefe behind the bench, there will be changes in approach. Dubas said there has already been a lot of discussion with the head coach about the likelihood of wearing 11 forwards and seven defensemen for games like Tampa did in winning the Stanley Cup.
Keefe shares something in common with Rays manager Kevin Cash, who Dubas described as “the best manager in baseball.”
“His ability to build trust and relationships with the players and know they were going to have a very clear direction from him,” Dubas said of Keefe. “Sometimes it may not be easy for them to hear, but it’s not going to turn away from having those difficult conversations.
“And he’s going to have his views and strategy backed up with video and data and objectivity, rather than what his gut feeling is.”