The single thing most Maple Leafs’ fans want is that general manager Kyle Dubas be fired. It’s something that, in the conversation sections of posts, is regularly mentioned. Even if it’s not even close to the topic of the post, some fans go there and make it a topic.
For example, I could write that the Canadian women’s hockey team played well at the Olympics, and there’d be a comment something like: “Yes, the Canadian women played well, but Dubas should be fired because he signed Mitch Marner to a huge contract and that’s why the team will never play well enough to win the Stanley Cup until he’s gone. He got schooled by Marner’s agent and Marner’s dad.”
Dubas Is Constantly Raked Over the Coals for One Thing of Another
In my experience covering the Maple Leafs, it seems that Dubas is regularly vilified for almost any problem the Maple Leafs face. There’s almost always talk about his end being nigh. However, that talk has always seemed a bit short-sighted.
The bottom line is that, even if one disagrees with almost all of Dubas’ decisions, there’s no logic for canning him. Year in and year out, Dubas builds teams that compete well. He must be doing something right. He fixes even the problems he creates in ways that improve the team rather than send the team toward the cellar. Other than winning Lord Stanley’s Cup, how does a general manager improve on the best regular season in franchise history?
Dubas Is in a Tough Position for the Organization (and for His Job)
To my way of thinking, Dubas has what might be the most difficult decision looming of his entire tenure as Maple Leafs’ general manager. This is the first time you’ve read me saying it, but it’s a situation where he could err so egregiously that it could be grounds for his dismissal.
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Dubas is facing a goaltending crisis and NHL free agency begins in just over three weeks. Behind the scenes, it could be that the decision is all worked out and this post is gratuitous. But, we’ve heard nothing that would lead us as fans to believe that.
So here’s Dubas and his team at a crossroads. They must make a goaltending decision about who will play in the Toronto net goal next season and perhaps beyond next season. Will Dubas’ handling of this goalie situation be his Waterloo?
To be truthful, Dubas does not have a great track record making decisions about goalies. He opted for youngster Garret Sparks when he could have chosen 35-year-old career backup Curtis McElhinney. I get the logic at the time; but, in retrospect, it didn’t work.
As recently as last offseason, he signed Petr Mrazek; and, that didn’t work out either. As it stands now, Mrazek’s contract could be the first step toward the exit door. Obviously, had Mrazek stayed healthy – and to credit Dubas doubters, history suggests Mrazek was a gamble – it would have been a moot point. All good: no problem. But Mrazek was injured in his first game and struggled the entire season. Problem.
What Should Do with Jack Campbell?
Now the Jack Campbell situation is in limbo. What happens now? There seem to be three choices. Signing Campbell for the right price; signing Campbell for the wrong price; or, losing Campbell to another team.
Considering the first choice, signing Campbell for the right price seems the more sagacious course of action. He’s known; he’s loved; and, he has a track record that brings confidence to the organization and on the ice. I have to believe this is Dubas’ present course of action, but he might hit a brick wall.
Considering the second choice, signing Campbell for the wrong price – read, too high a contract – could also work out if Campbell lights up the world. However, for as good as he is, he hasn’t yet shown himself to be the lighter of the world as a goalie.
Considering the third choice, losing Campbell to another team would be just fine if Campbell stumbles and falls. However, it could backfire if Campbell goes to – let’s say – the Edmonton Oilers and proves to be the difference that pushes Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the departed one Zach Hyman to the Stanley Cup.
The One Choice Dubas Should Not Make
However, the one choice Dubas should not make is to head into the season with the goalies the organization currently has under contract. Those being Mrazek, Erik Kallgren, and Joseph Woll. That threesome isn’t ready for prime time.
If that’s what Dubas did, it would be a huge risk to both the team and to his own job security. It could work out swimmingly if Mrazek proves to be a healthy, game-winning goalie. History suggests that’s a huge (and the wrong) gamble. It could also work out if one of the Maple Leafs’ youngsters proves to be the next Jake Oettinger. But that’s unlikely to happen, especially next season.
I just can’t see Dubas choosing to believe Mrazek is the goalie for the Maple Leafs’ near future. If he does, and it backfires, there won’t be enough horses to pull the fire-Dubas-now bandwagon.
Dubas’ Choice Is Well Past My Pay Grade
Dubas is left with a tough choice to make. When I seriously try to put myself into his spot and consider the options, I’m not sure what I’d do if Campbell won’t sign for the right price.
As I see it, re-signing Campbell or not could be the hardest choice of Dubas’ Maple Leafs’ tenure. And, deciding this offseason goalie decision is the first decision I’ve seen where I believe Dubas could put his career as the Maple Leafs’ general manager at risk.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf