Brendan Shanahan has made his first major move to overhaul the Toronto Maple Leafs' front-office, dismissing Vice President of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin and Vice President and Assistant General Manager Claude Loiselle.
Incoming: 28-year-old Kyle Dubas, who's been serving as the General Manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds since he was 25 years old, and will now be an assistant GM in Toronto.
“Kyle is a young executive that has made a strong name for himself in hockey with a progressive style, work ethic and maturation beyond his years,” said Shanahan in a release. “He has a fresh approach that we feel will benefit our club for years to come.”
“At the same time, I would like to thank Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle for their tireless dedication during their time with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are both very accomplished hockey executives who have helped put this team in a position to take the next step.”
It's a massive shake-up, and one that signals a pretty bold change in direction. Nothing says "fresh approach" quite like cutting ties with two guys like Poulin and Loiselle, both of whom represent hockey's old way of thinking (something Shanahan nods to with his use of the term "accomplished hockey executives"), and bringing in a guy that's yet to reach his 30s.
A guy that never played the game. And a guy known to be a strong proponent of the analytical approach.
Kyle Dubas is something of a stats guru, at least compared to most other hockey execs, and for a Leafs' blogosphere that's been beating their heads against the wall at Dave Nonis's moves for several seasons now, knowing a guy like Dubas has his ear is a welcome change.
“We’re excited about the addition of an up-and-coming hockey executive in Kyle,” said Nonis in the release. “He is an innovative thinker that will bring enthusiasm and impressive abilities to our club."
He's certainly done wonders for the Greyhounds, as evidenced by this simple graphic. Dubas took over in 2011-12:
Much like the OIlers signing advanced stats darlings Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne, this move signals to a frustrated fanbase that they've begun to embrace the new way of thinking in hockey, and weigh their moves against the underlying possession metrics many in the blogosphere have been pushing for several seasons now. To wit:
I am in actual, genuine shock. Still. Wow. Amazing.— mc79hockey (@mc79hockey) July 22, 2014
Granted, Nonis and Carlyle are still running the ship, but Dubas will have the opportunity to at least argue against moves like buying out MIkhail Grabovski, overpaying Tyler Bozak, and throwing the GDP of a small country at David Clarkson..
And, again, he's just 28. Dubas is a bit of a hockey wunderkind, having served as an NHLPA agent by the age of 20, and taking the OHL General Manager job at 25. Even there, his age was a massive question. One can imagine him saying the same thing to the media today he said when he was introduced by the Soo Greyhounds. From Buzzing the Net:
"I understand why people are critical," said Dubas. "They would have been more comfortable with someone who had been in the league for years and when you get outside people's comfort zones they get nervous and they get critical. It's up to me to show them that the belief the organization has put into me… was warranted. I don't expect the fans to give me any grace or anything like that. The fans are very passionate and they support this team until the bitter end and they have the right to whatever opinion they want.
"It's up to me to have those people trust me."
The dismissal of Poulin and Loiselle isn't entirely surprising. Shanahan was noncommital when asked about their role going forward back in May.
"That’s not something I’ve really discussed yet," he told the Globe & Mail. "I think organizationally there were certain priorities [first]. I’ve discovered the role that they have in the organization, and I’ll just leave it at that."