Penguins Hiring Dubas Answers Questions for Maple Leafs

Earlier this morning, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that Kyle Dubas had been named President of Hockey Operations. Dubas becomes just the second person to hold this position in the history of the franchise. The first was also former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Brian Burke. In his new position, the 37-year-old Dubas will oversee all aspects of the Penguins hockey operations department, including establishing the strategic vision and philosophy for the franchise. 

As fans know, Dubas previously served as the GM of the Maple Leafs. The move comes after the Penguins made radical changes to their management team, parting ways with former President of Hockey Operations Burke, GM Ron Hextall, and assistant GM Chris Pryor. 

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The hiring of Dubas is a move the Penguins made as they work to regain the team’s winning form after missing the playoffs for the first time in the past 16 years.

From a Maple Leafs Perspective, Dubas’ Tenure Was Controversial

The news that Dubas was named the President of Hockey Operations for the Penguins has undoubtedly left many Maple Leafs fans wondering what they had missed. Some fans (a few) might see Dubas leaving as a significant loss for the team. Most others view it as an opportunity for the Maple Leafs to change and get better. Almost any new ideas would be welcome after what has been seen as Dubas’ failed leadership. 

Related: Ex-Maple Leaf Wendel Clark Weighs in on Current Leafs Stars

During his time as the GM of the Maple Leafs, Dubas was no stranger to criticism and different opinions. Although he brought an innovative approach to the team, his tenure was marked by both regular-season success and post-season disappointment. 

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

The Maple Leafs soared during the regular-season under his leadership, setting franchise records for wins and points percentage. However, his team’s inability to advance deep into the playoffs left many fans frustrated. The result was that his ability to build a successful team was questioned. The mixed result left fans questioning Dubas’ ability to build a championship-calibre roster.

Does Dubas Hiring by the Penguins Highlight a Difference in Vision?

One critical question that can be asked is whether Dubas’ hiring by the Penguins raises questions about the dynamics and power structure within the Maple Leafs’ organization. Brendan Shanahan, the current President of the Maple Leafs, has been a guiding force in the team’s rebuild. To his credit, he’s rightfully been seen as bringing stability and direction to the franchise. 

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Early in his presidency, Shanahan even reached out to help heal old wounds between Maple Leafs’ alumni and the organization. Specifically, he engaged in the steps toward the reconciliation between Dave Keon and the Maple Leafs.

Dubas’ hiring as President of Hockey Operations with the Penguins suggests that there were differences in both the vision and approach between him and Shanahan. 

Dubas Sought More Autonomy and Received It in Pittsburgh 

Dubas’ employment as the President of Hockey Operations in Pittsburgh represents a step up from his previous position as the GM with the Maple Leafs. It speaks volumes about his personal aspirations for more control and autonomy. It also suggests that he felt constrained by the existing power structure in Toronto and wanted a higher level of authority over hockey operations. 

Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas Toronto Maple Leafs
Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas (The Hockey Writers)

There is no doubt that Dubas is an ambitious hockey leader who seeks to implement his own strategic vision without the level of oversight he felt he experienced with the Maple Leafs.

A Fresh Start for Dubas and the Maple Leafs

Dubas’ move to the Penguins offers him a new opportunity to show those leadership capabilities and make his mark on a different organization. By assuming the role of the Penguins’ President of Hockey Operations, he’ll have the authority to shape the Penguins’ strategic direction and philosophy. If he actually was in Shanahan’s shadow, he is no longer. He now has a chance to step out and showcase his own approach to team-building and management.

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

What are the implications for the Maple Leafs, if any? With Dubas gone, the Maple Leafs have already begun their regroup. They seem to have found a suitable replacement in Brad Treliving, who will work to continue the team’s trajectory. 

In fact, now both organizations are presented with a chance to evaluate their leadership structures and ensure the alignment between their presidents and their GMs. Earlier today, when the Penguins introduced Dubas at a press conference, he noted that he would assume the interim GM position until July 1. 

The Bottom Line

Dubas’ hiring as the President of Hockey Operations for the Penguins is a move forward for both teams. It likely will raise questions among the Maple Leafs fanbase. Given the “way” Shanahan and Dubas seem to operate, it’s likely these specific questions will not be answered. Why go there?

In the meantime, let it stand that Dubas’ tenure in Toronto will have mixed reviews. His departure could allow an opportunity for reflection and changes within the Maple Leafs’ organization.

Brad Treliving Calgary Flames
Brad Treliving, former General Manager of the Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Certainly, as the Maple Leafs begin their own work led by Treliving as their GM, they have undoubtedly learned much from their experience with Dubas – both about what they want to do and what they don’t.

It’s been an interesting week. What’s most interesting to me is how Dubas, who’s seen by most Toronto fans as a failed GM, can be so prized by the Penguins that they’d offer him the job as the President of Penguins Hockey Operations.

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