Maple Leafs’ Comedy of Errors Was Avoidable

The Toronto Maple Leafs pulled something not many teams have done. Somehow, Kyle Dubas used free agency to make his team significantly worse at every position. While other teams were making franchise-altering deals to improve their clubs, the Maple Leafs were watching players leave, even showing the most devoted guys the door without an offer, some without even a conversation.

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Yes, this team already has several star players and can’t afford to make a big splash in free agency. However, to not improve or at least maintain a team’s competitiveness is reprehensible.

Kyle Dubas Toronto Maple Leafs GM
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs GM (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s a harsh assessment, but no one can say the way the roster for the 2022-23 season is shaping up is better than the one that took to the ice in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s been a comedy of errors that one could argue started in the third period of Game 6. However, this month alone has more than enough gaffs for this article.

Dubas Should’ve Known Better

The draft must’ve been a humbling moment for Dubas. He traded down to find someone to take his biggest mistake of last season off the books. We will never know why the Chicago Blackhawks bailed him out; perhaps it was last season’s tiff between the two clubs’ front offices. Regardless, Chicago took Petr Mrazek and his entire contract to move up 13 spots in the draft.

Related: Maple Leafs Must Trade Latest Playoff Goat

However, the hardcore fans will always watch the prospects selected between pick 25 and 38. If one of those guys turns into a superstar, this trade will look bad in the history books. But in the present time, this appeared to be the break that Toronto needed, and it should’ve served as a reminder to the fifth-year general manager to be cautious, and perhaps a slice of humble pie would help. It didn’t.

Campbell for Murray

Jack Campbell, an all-star in 2021-22 who came out of nowhere to give this team a chance for the last two seasons, was shown the door. There were very few conversations after the season and never an official offer. Instead, Toronto elected to roll the dice and trade for Matt Murray, a great goalie five years ago. The Leafs are paying him close to the same amount of money as Campbell is getting in Edmonton. However, these goalies are not the same as the stats show.

Goalie Stats Previous Two SeasonsGoals Against AverageSave Percentage
Jack Campbell2.15 (2020-21) 2.64 (2021-22).921 (2020-21) .914 (2021-22)
Matt Murray 3.38 (2020-21) 3.05 (2021-22).893 (2020-21) .906 (2021-22)
Courtesy of NHL.com

Another difference is Campbell got a deal for five years while Murray has two years left on his contract. Dubas admitted the determining factor was term. Perhaps the stats people were locked out of the room or Dubas was referring to numbers for half a decade ago.

Lyubushkin Out Holl Still Here

Dubas didn’t even talk to Ilya Lyubushkin. The same blue liner who became a top-four shut-down defenseman in a couple of months in Toronto. He went to Buffalo on a two-year deal worth $2.75 million a season. The Russian was the guy Toronto had been waiting for on the blue line – a big mean player who hit and wore out the opposition. No, not even a conversation with him as he goes to a division rival.

Ilya Lyubushkin Arizona Coyotes
Ilya Lyubushkin was traded to Toronto from the Arizona Coyotes half way through the 2021-22 season (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs are still stuck with Justin Holl, who struggled last season and was a healthy scratch for a few games, including the first two games of the playoffs. He gets $2 million a season.

Mikheyev Goes Quietly

Ilya Mikheyev signed with the Vancouver Canucks for four years, earning $4.75 million a season. There wasn’t much that could’ve been done here. However, it appears there wasn’t even an attempt. There were lots of rumours about this player in previous seasons reportedly asking for a trade or more money. Hard to say what side was leaking the information, but there wasn’t a peep over the past couple of months as it seemed Toronto accepted that he was leaving. We will never know if they asked him to stay, but there is now a hole in the top six and on the penalty kill.

Kerfoot has Trade Power

Alex Kerfoot has entered the final year of his deal. That means he can deny a trade via a ten-team no-trade list. He could’ve been moved to several teams to give Toronto more cap space to fill out the bottom six. While his $3.5 million wouldn’t result in the Leafs getting a saviour, it would allow the team to get players with NHL minutes. Dubas is satisfied with having the holes in his forwards’ group filled in with inexperienced players.

Dubas is Out of Chances

The general manager is usually praised for strengthening the roster with savvy moves, player development and finding bargain bin players. It’s an about-face to start the 2022-23 season. With his job on the line, Dubas is leaving it up to his coaching staff, his elite players and a miracle (or ten) to somehow advance in the playoffs.