Confusion and hurt rippled through the Maple Leafs in the wake of Kyle Dubas’ dismissal

anger. confusion. shock. disappointment.

Those are some of the sentiments resonating about the Maple Leafs right now in the wake of Kyle Dubas’ firing as general manager last week.

the athlete Several people who work for The Leafs have been reached this week. They were granted anonymity because the team did not allow them to speak to the media.

This story reflects their feelings in the moment and speaks to a level of disappointment that team president Brendan Shanahan and the Leafs’ incoming general manager will have to work to unwind.

“I’m in mourning right now,” said one of the people who worked the front office with Dubas during his time with the Leafs.

There is a real sense of loss for the staff. Dubas was their leader and the person who hired many of them. Suddenly, he was gone a week after the season ended – and without, in their minds, a satisfactory explanation as to why.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said a member of the Leafs’ front office of the manner in which Dubas was let go. “That’s why it’s so disappointing.”

Shanahan went from wanting to reinstate Dupas to firing him in a matter of days. He then offered his version of events at a press conference that left people inside the group confused and angry.

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Jason Spieza resigned before the press conference began. The famous former Leaf who retired to a front office position after the 2021-22 season has refused to tackle the matter any further. That was intentional. Spezza wanted his actions to do the talking.

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Read between the lines and it’s clear he wasn’t happy with what happened and was willing to sacrifice his early career after playing for it.

Spezza has been working with his hometown team. He had his family here. He had every reason to stick with the Leafs, where he could pursue his hockey future further, but he left anyway to support his boss.

Kyle Dubas and Jason Spieza. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After a 19-year career in the NHL, where he earned an estimated $90 million, according to CapFriendly, Spezza was able to afford to leave. Others who felt the same, who tended to follow their leader out of the house, could not because they lacked the same sense of financial security.

It’s their security because of Dubas.

Although he was not offered an extension himself, until after the trade deadline, Dubas struggled to extend staff who entered last season with expired contracts. He extended it on one, two and three year deals.

At least one employee was tempted to leave things with Dubas for an uncertain year. Dubas insisted – take security and protect your family.

He told his people, “Don’t worry about me.” “I will be fine.”

Those close to Dubas insist they would love to work with him. Dubas put them first and clearly grew into his leadership role.

Early last season, when the team was faltering badly out of the gate in October, Dubas pulled the entire Leafs operation together for a meeting.

Calm a tense group. He told them all: “Be the best you can be.” “Just do what you do.”

The dominant message: All is well. The team will be fine. Indeed, the Leafs finished with the second-best record in the league from November 1 onwards.

For at least one person who works for the Leafs, last season felt like the first time everyone in the organization was heading in the same direction. It was about their shared mission, of course, to try and win the Stanley Cup.

But it was also about Dubas. Everyone knew he was in the final year of his deal. And though everything seemed the same on the outside with Dubas, and he was handling the job just as well as before, they knew as well as he did that his job was literally on the line (even assuming he’d come back after Livs in the first round). on Tampa).

Many in the organization worked with Dupas before he became the Leafs’ general manager, when he was toiling under then-GM Lou Lamoriello, leading the Marlies to the Calder Cup in 2018. Over the past five years, they’ve seen firsthand how he’s built It turns into a sprawling, finely tuned machine that has sought to maximize everything it can do in the organization.

“People don’t understand how much work he’s done,” said the Leafs front office member. “They made it with this guy.”

This explains why Dubas appears to have jumped to the top of GM’s search for penguins this week.

It was Dubas, then assistant general manager to Lamoriello, who oversaw the addition of Jeremy Bittle and the creation of the Sports Science Department. It was Dubas, with the support of head coach Sheldon Keefe, who oversaw the expansion of a skill development program that allowed players to hone their abilities throughout the season.

Austin Matthews and John Tavares, in particular, liked the process. Players like Connor Timmins spent morning after morning with ski instructor Paul Matheson while skill development consultants like Denver Manderson joined the team for skills sessions on the road. The Leafs even brought their practice goaltender, Andrew D’Agostini, on road trips, even long ones, to spare their regular goalies some of the wear and tear.

This did not exist in the pre-Dubas era. There was no “process” in place, an enterprise-wide way of doing things that flowed from the top to every corner of the enterprise. Information was more isolated in Lamoriello’s day. After Dubas became GM that changed. Personnel from R&D departments have started to attend trainings regularly. The dress code has been relaxed. Players and staff were free to sport facial hair and felt more comfortable with themselves.

They saw Dubas pour everything he had into organizing. They saw that he watched as many or more videos of his many scouts. He pursued relationships and information from people in other sports and companies, anything to move the Leafs forward.

Employees were encouraged to do the same.

This is what made Dubas’s expulsion method unnerve them. They believed it was not about money or power for Dupas, and were skeptical that he would insist on last-minute changes. This was not the way Dubas operates.

If he had insisted on changes in the chain of command, as reported by Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman, he could have operated more efficiently and effectively, in their estimation. As for the family concerns that Dupas alluded to in his season-closing press conference, the belief is that he simply wanted to take a beat, look inward, and figure out how to make everything work better for himself, his family, and himself.

There is a sense of disbelief in the organization that Shanahan would be willing to change course from someone who’s grown a lot over the years and who was so committed to the Leafs and who, by Shanahan’s own account, did well last season.

It was “impossible to understand” to the Leafs staff that it would end as it did.

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And now, some employees are wondering, how will the Leafs find someone better? Someone willing to implement a series of franchise change decisions in a matter of weeks? Someone who will promote a similar work culture. And what does that mean for Leaves?

Shanahan’s explanation left the staff even more perplexed and upset, that Dupas would be bruised like that, with a bizarre tinkering with the negotiations and the inference that more money had been insisted on at the last minute, on the way out. It bothered them that this is how Dubas is portrayed.

They said he deserved better.

Dubas wasn’t the type to stand up for himself either, said a staff member, so those suggestions would go undefended.

and fact, In his only public commentsDubas refused to go into any details.

(Top photo: Lance McMillan/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

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