For the Toronto Maple Leafs, the end to the 2020-21 season was a well-documented disaster. Despite finishing sixth overall in the entire league and winning the Scotia North Division by five points, the Maple Leafs flamed out of the 2021 Playoffs in Round 1, blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadians.
After experiencing another postseason meltdown, fans and media alike are starting to ask what the future will hold for Toronto, and whether or not that future will continue to feature their current core of star players. There’s no doubt that the team is incredibly talented, but after failing to get over the hump in recent seasons, there are legitimate questions about if this group will be able to put it all together on the ice.
As the general manager who signed many of these core players to long-term contracts, there is a belief that if the Maple Leafs once again fail to take that next step, it should be Kyle Dubas who pays the price. He did, after all, lockdown his superstar talents to expensive, long-term contracts that have forced the franchise to navigate the cap while trying to build a line-up that can win it all.
Due to this, Dubas has been asked multiple times in press conferences if he is concerned about his future with the Maple Leafs before the start of training camp.
“It’s a question I can’t really answer…,” said Dubas, “I think if we all work together throughout this year and be at our best, none of that will be of concern.”
Maple Leafs Can Change Dubas’ Legacy in 2021-22 Season
If you look purely at the roster that Dubas has assembled for the Maple Leafs heading into the 2021-22 season, you will see a team that is well balanced on paper that should compete for the Atlantic Division title. They have top-end scoring, a solid defensive corps, and a goalie tandem that has the potential to be elite.
Despite this, it will be hard for fans of the Maple Leafs to enjoy the regular season. Even if they go out and do everything right, none of it will matter until they win a series in the postseason. If they end up being another great team that goes out with a whimper when the lights are brightest, it will likely lead to big changes in Toronto.
However, with a few roster tweaks, Dubas may be able to get those last pieces in place to get Toronto over the hump in 2021-22, even if things feel a bit dire right now. Plenty of teams hit the proverbial wall multiple times before they breakthrough, so by not overreacting and keeping the core together that has been carefully built over the course of years, he is keeping the Maple Leafs in a great spot to compete for the Stanley Cup.
If things go well, then Toronto should take that next step in the postseason. If not, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out Dubas will be looking for a new job come the 2022 offseason.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.