Maple Leaf’s Commentary: The Honeymoon’s Over for Dubas & Shanahan

There’s pressure on Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas and Maple Leafs’ President Brandan Shanahan. The honeymoon appears to be over for Dubas. That also might mean that the honeymoon for Shanahan might be over as well.

Related: Maple Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas: Using Anger as a Negotiating Tactic

While there is always pressure on an NHL GM to win, there comes a time in every general manager’s tenure with a team where not winning might mean losing your job. The 2022-23 season could be that time for Dubas.

Kyle Dubas Is Clearly Shanahan’s Hire: It Started Well

Dubas was one of the first hires by Shanahan. Shanahan became president of the Maple Leafs in April of 2014. Dubas was hired as an Assistant Manager by Shanahan in July of 2014. Dubas was named General Manager of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies shortly after. 

Brendan Shanahan
Toronto Maple Leafs president, Brendan Shanahan
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

After the Marlies won the Calder Cup in 2018, rather than extending Lou Lamoriello’s contract as the Maple Leafs’ GM, Shanahan promoted Dubas to that position. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ State of Affairs: What Would Lamoriello Do?

In the 2018-19 season, Dubas’ first full season and with Mike Babcock as their coach the Maple Leafs finished the season with 100 points for only the fifth time in franchise history. However, that total was a five-point drop from the previous season when the Maple Leafs earned a franchise record of 105 points under then-general manager Lamoriello. They lost in the first round of the playoffs in seven games to the Boston Bruins.

Mike Babcock Was Fired as Head Coach and Sheldon Keefe Was Hired

The next season, after starting with a 9-10-4 record, Babcock was fired as head coach and replaced with Sheldon Keefe. The Maple Leafs finished strong and ended with 81 points in 70 games in the pandemic-shortened season, a 95-point, 82-game pace. They lost the play-in round of the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. 

Sheldon Keefe and Manny Malhotra Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe and Manny Malhotra, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In what was another short season in 2020-21, the Maple Leafs earned 77 points in 56 games, a 113-point, 82-game pace. However, once again they lost in the first round of the playoffs, this time to the Montreal Canadiens despite being heavily favored to win that series. 

Related: NHL’s 10 Most Impressive Streaks

In 2021-22 the Maple Leafs got to play a full 82 season and set a new franchise record in doing so, finishing the season with 115 points. Alas, the team once again went down to defeat in the first round of the playoffs, in a close hard-fought battle, with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That Lightning team was eventually beaten in the Stanley Cup Final by the Colorado Avalanche.

Until This Season, Dubas’ Job Has Always Seemed Secure

Despite some fans calling for his head, Dubas’ job has never really seemed in jeopardy. Until now.

After losing out in the first round of the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the last five of those series going the full seven (or in one case five) games, it does seem like Dubas’ job could be in danger this coming season if the Maple Leafs don’t finally get over that hump and win a playoff round. 

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Alana Davidson/NHLI via Getty Images)

A general manager only gets so many kicks at the can. If Dubas misses on something solid this season’s playoffs, it could be his last season as a Maple Leafs’ executive. 

If Dubas goes, team president Shanahan might not be far behind him. This is ultimately his show and he has clearly hitched his wagon to Dubas’ horse. 

Related: Was Lou Lamoriello as Good as Toronto Maple Leafs Fans Remember?

It is time for both of them to put up or, well. Maple Leafs’ fans know what comes next.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]