The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Kyle Dubas gave an honest assessment of himself. The general manager has enjoyed a lot of regular-season success. However, the self-professed hockey nerd knows his team’s playoff performance is all that matters.
“In the end, our goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” said Dubas during the Bob McCown Podcast. “That can only be achieved in the playoffs. When we don’t reach that in the playoffs, I think you have to be very realistic and objective in saying you fell short.” But he didn’t stop there, adding, “it is certainly fair to say that if there aren’t changes in our performance, in the end, there will be changes to the organization. I think that comes with the territory of operating in a market like this and operating with a team that hasn’t reached its potential in the playoffs thus far.”
Maple Leafs Core Four is his Creation
The 35-year-old is entering his eighth season with the organization and fourth as general manager. He was asked point-blank; do you think this is your last chance to do that (win a Stanley Cup)? “I never think about things that way, but I also don’t shy away from the question, either,” responded Dubas. “It is certainly fair to ponder, especially given the fact that we are going to return to the same core group, which I have great belief in. If I didn’t have belief in it, knowing the consequences to the team, we wouldn’t have returned it.”
Dubas is determined to live by the sword, die by the sword. It is his signature on the contracts of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander. Those contracts eat up half of Toronto’s overall budget. He made his intentions to keep the core four together during the season-ending interviews back in June. However, he did admit there were inquiries. “It might’ve satisfied the masses, and the team might’ve looked different, but there was nothing that came across where I felt we would’ve been absolutely better,” said Dubas.
Maple Leafs Face a Difficult Atlantic Division
Toronto fans are going to endure a regular season that will feel much longer than six months. It doesn’t matter how well this team plays during those 82 games or how many individual awards players win; the playoff performance will decide everyone’s future in the organization. “I know that everyone will be looking at the year and asking themselves, ‘They can have whatever regular season they want, but how are they going to respond in those (playoff) moments?’ That will be the ultimate test for our team. I think it’s what everyone here is looking forward to, but in order to get to that point, we have to have a great regular season first.”
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Even making the playoffs will be a challenge. The Leafs are back in the Atlantic Division, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Also, the Stanley Cup runner-up, the Montreal Canadiens. Then, there are the loaded-up Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers teams. “One of those teams for sure would miss (the playoffs) and thus be greatly disappointed,” said Dubas. “For us, that lets us hone in on the fact that if we don’t have a great regular season, we are not going to set ourselves up to get to the playoffs. You can’t just get there and flip a switch anyway. It is greatly important.”
Maple Leafs Need a Second Round Appearance
While Dubas was assuring listeners the team is not looking past the regular season, he also understands the impatience. “The fans and media alike are not going to be overly satisfied by another record-setting regular season. They want us to win the Stanley Cup. That requires winning four playoff rounds.”
Four rounds? Winning one would be a relief for a frustrated fan base, and it would buy Dubas and company more time. You may have heard the team has not won a single playoff round since 2003-04. At this point, it sounds like Dubas would fire himself if the Maple Leafs don’t make an appearance in the second round.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.