Maple Leafs Future Will Determine Dubas’ Deadline Deals

At my rapidly advancing age (moving now toward 80 years), I’ve come to believe that the two biggest motivators of human action are fear and desire. Fear drives humans to avoid harm or negative consequences, while desire prompts humans to act in pursuit of pleasure, rewards, or satisfaction. Sometimes both work together to shape behavior and decision-making, often influencing each other in complex and sometimes contradictory ways.

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Not Extending Dubas a Smart Move

Recently, there has been speculation that Kyle Dubas would risk the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise to make a deep playoff run. The reason is that he is fearful of losing his job as general manager. On the flip side, he desires to keep his job.

I’m Not Buying That Dubas Will Act This Way

Call me “pollyannaish,” but I simply don’t believe this is the Dubas we will see making trade deadline decisions. He will make decisions that he believes will spur his team toward postseason success. Like them or not, these are the decisions I’ve seen him make during the four years I have covered the Maple Leafs. 

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

Not that I have always agreed with his choices. His trade for Nick Foligno was as bad in its complexity (including Foligno’s health at the time) as it was in its outcome. He’s also made good trades (Jake Muzzin and, most recently, Conor Timmins), but he’s never made a trade to save his job.

Right or Wrong, Dubas Will Make Trades to Help the Team

I am optimistic that he will make logical decisions that don’t overlook the team’s problems and challenges and will work to further the franchise. Saving himself won’t be part of the equation.

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

I expect Dubas to be active at the deadline, and I expect to be surprised. However, in all that activity, I know he will not compromise the team’s long-term success to protect his job.

Hockey Insider Chris Johnston Agrees About Dubas

On TSN Overdrive recently, Chris Johnston discussed what he believed Dubas’ mindset would be heading into March 3. Would he spend big to bring in a rental? Johnson believed it is unlikely. He has not historically paid high prices for rentals, and he avoids giving up first-round picks for players on expiring contracts.

More to the point, Dubas’ modus operandi (M.O.) has been to not wait until the deadline. Instead, he’ll see what assets he can bring in before then so any newcomers can learn and fit into the team’s systems and way of doing things. In short, Dubas is unlikely to move out significant franchise assets for 20 regular-season games and then the maximum of 28 playoff games. 

In that, he’s learned on the job. Such behavior has been too risky and goes against Dubas’ current philosophy.

Dubas Is No Longer Auditioning for a Job 

Johnston added that he believes Dubas’ contract status is not likely to influence his roster decisions. He has already established himself as a general manager. He’s confident and believes that his team has a strong plan in place.

Related: Myth of the Montreal Canadiens’ Early Success

As a result, should the unlikely happen, and the Maple Leafs choose not to re-sign him, Dubas isn’t auditioning for another job. Even if he isn’t re-signed by the Maple Leafs, he won’t be out of a general manager’s job for long. 

Johnston believes Dubas will stay true to his philosophy without making dramatic moves that would risk the “health” of the franchise. Despite the high stakes of the season, Johnston doesn’t think Dubas will change his approach. He’ll stick to his plan, trust in the team’s core players, and tweak at the edges. 

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I agree. Despite the prognostications that every player in the world seems headed Toronto’s way, I wouldn’t look for any significant changes to the team’s core, now or in the near future.

I’m Not Sure What Dubas Will Do, but I’m Pretty Sure What He Won’t Do

I do not know, nor can I anticipate, the moves Dubas will make at the trade deadline. He surprises.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Kyle Dubas
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner and Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas

However, I’m confident that even if the team fails yet again in the first round of playoffs, Dubas won’t take any action that would put his job security ahead of the best interests of the team. If he does, my appreciation for him as a GM would greatly diminish. Over the next few weeks, we will all get to see what he is made of.

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