The Toronto Maple Leafs shook up their management team Tuesday, dismissing assistant GMs Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle and hiring former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas as assistant GM.
The timing of the move doesn’t follow the NHL’s normal pattern of managerial changes that take place immediately after the playoffs conclude, but this is a special circumstance; new Leafs president Brendan Shanahan only came on board in mid-April and required time to properly assess the organization before making major changes. He’s now had three months in the position and the moves he made Tuesday suggest he’s a far more progressive-minded type than he’s received credit for.
Why? Because the 28-year-old Dubas is highly regarded around the industry as a sharp hockey mind with a firm grasp of advanced statistics. It was only a matter of time before an NHL team scooped him up, and for Shanahan to land him has to be considered a coup – and, more importantly, an indication the way the Leafs do business is changing.
This isn’t to lay the blame for Toronto’s struggles at the feet of Poulin and Loiselle, two hockey lifers and decent men who will find employment soon enough. But in moving in a different direction, Shanahan has shown there will be no culture of entitlement in Leafs Land any longer. And if the franchise struggles in any meaningful way this coming season, I’d expect head coach Randy Carlyle and GM Dave Nonis to follow Loiselle and Poulin out the door.
Indeed, if you examine what Shanahan has done in his brief time with the team, a pattern emerges: he could’ve come in and fired Carlyle right away, but he didn’t. Instead, he gave him another chance, but he also took away his comfort zone by firing longtime assistant coach Dave Farrish. The same now goes for Nonis; he gets a shot at redemption, but the power structure he’d become accustomed to is now gone.
That’s exactly as it should be. After Toronto’s ugly implosions in the past couple years, there is no room for comfort or familiarity any longer. The pressure is now squarely on Nonis and Carlyle to produce. And if that doesn’t happen, Shanahan has shown he has no qualms about making changes.
Remember all the people who fell on their backs and pounded their fists in anger over Shanahan’s lack of action when he first took the job? They didn’t realize that’s not the way he operates. He needed time to gauge the lay of the land before he acted forcefully. And Tuesday, he acted forcefully.
It’s by no means a guarantee of Stanley Cup success, but it’s a promising start.