The Calgary Flames are continuing their hunt for a general manager and seem to be checking in on every option. Another option might become available soon: Kyle Dubas. Dubas is the current general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although he was at the helm of the Leafs team that broke the 19-year first-round curse, the Leafs might get swept by the Florida Panthers tonight which could lead to Dubas still getting canned. Dubas is a very controversial candidate—many will say that he’s one of the worst options and many will say he’s one of the best.
Who is Kyle Dubas?
Kyle Dubas started his hockey career very early. At the age of 17, he was already a scout for the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL. Dubas stayed in this role with the team until the end of the 2005–06 season then likely set off to focus on education for a few years. He returned to the Greyhounds about half a decade later in 2011, this time taking the position of GM. The Greyhounds were struggling and looking for someone with experience in the position, but Dubas’s interview and plan for the team was so impressive they hired him.
From the 2011–12 to the 2013–14 season, Dubas was the Greyhounds’ GM. They didn’t see much more success with him at the helm with their best result being a second round exit, but Dubas’ work was good enough to catch the eye of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. Brendan Shanahan, president of the Maple Leafs, reached out to Dubas and constructed an interview that eventually landed Dubas the spot of the assistant general manager from 2014 to 2018.
During this four-year period of time, Dubas had the responsibility of player personnel, managing the player development department, managing the research and development department, and working as the GM of the affiliate team, the Toronto Marlies. Dubas and the Marlies were very successful in their time. They won the Macgregor Kilpatrick trophy for best regular season team in both 2015–16 and 2017–18. Also in 2017–18, Dubas and the Marlies were named champions and picked up the first Calder Cup in franchise history. After Lou Lamoriello was not renewed by the Maple Leafs, Dubas became general manager for the club. Dubas has been the GM of the Leafs for the past five seasons and has built some strong teams that have fell short in the playoffs.
Dubas has always been fond of analytics and data. In his plans he presented (and executed), numbers were involved in some way. His main point in using data is that they remove bias from players and can help create smarter decisions. Some of his moves don’t back up this claim, but nonetheless he has a young and progressive mindset.
History of moves
Ryan O’Reilly was having a down with the St. Louis Blues scoring at under half a point per game yet Dubas still paid a larger price to get him at 75% retained. When the regular season came to a close, O’Reilly finished with 11 points in 13 games with the Leafs, only eight fewer points in 27 fewer games than with the Blues. O’Reilly has been one of the Leafs better players this playoffs with nine points in nine games. Noel Acciari has been a nice addition too. Although he’s scored way less, he’s added some needed toughness to the Leafs’ bottom-six.
Before dealing with hardcore injuries, Jake Muzzin was arguably the Leafs’ best defenceman. He put up around 30 points a season for the Leafs while posting some great defensive numbers. Dubas acquired him without giving up a roster player. Both Durzi and Grundstrom have now cracked the Los Angeles Kings roster but they’re both nowhere near the level Muzzin was for the Leafs. The 2019 first rounder was used to select Tobias Bjornfot who has yet to make the next step. This trade may not have an impact on the Leafs today, but for a few years, Muzzin greatly improved them and overall the deal was a great win-now move by Dubas.
Signing T.J. Brodie
Some may disagree, but I believe the signing of T.J. Brodie was a great move by Dubas for two different reasons. To start, Brodie immediately became one of the Leafs better defenceman, improving the Leafs overall team defence. Brodie had some strong two-way numbers in the bubble season despite only scoring 14 points. The following year his offensive numbers plummeted although he scored more points. However, his defensive numbers rose to among the best in the league and have been there since. The other reason signing Brodie was a great move was that it pulled the Leafs away from Alex Pietrangelo. Don’t get me wrong, Pietrangelo is still a good defenceman, but you don’t want to be stuck paying him $8.8 million until he’s 37.
Tyson Barrie is one of the oddest defenceman in the league as he’ll put up a good amount of points, but have horrendous 5v5 numbers and defence. His one year with Toronto was no different. 39 points in 80 games highlighted Barrie’s season to the casual fan but the deeper you dove, the worse performance you’d find. Awful defence and bad 5v5 play leaves his single season with the Leafs not to be remembered fondly.
Alexander Kerfoot had some solid promise at the time of the trade, but he became a defensive forward with bad offensive numbers. On the other hand, the big piece going to the Colorado Avalanche was Nazem Kadri. Although Kadri loved playing in Toronto, he found himself getting traded due to “playoff shenanigans”. He played with the Avalanche for three seasons setting career highs and being a big part of a cup-winning team in the 2021-22 season.
Acquiring Jared McCann to protect Alexander Kerfoot in the expansion draft
Dubas and the Leafs acquired Jared McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins right before the Seattle Kraken expansion. It cost them Filip Hallander and a 2023 7th round pick. At first, the trade looked perfect. McCann looked like a player ready for a breakout and the Leafs got him for cheap, but perfect turned into disaster quite quickly. The Leafs left Jared McCann unprotected in the expansion draft as bait so the Kraken wouldn’t select Kerfoot. As already mentioned, Kerfoot has become a defensive forward that strongly struggles at 5v5 and offensively and has peaked as a middle-six/bottom-six guy. Then you look over at Jared McCann, he has become one of, if not the best player on the Kraken and scored 40 goals and 70 points this past season.
Nick Foligno was picked up by Dubas and the Leafs at the 2021 trade deadline in hopes that he would put them over the edge with his grit and defence. Unsurprisingly, Foligno was not enough. Four points in seven games was the stat line for Foligno for the remainder of the regular season with the Leafs. When playoffs came, he suited up for four games and scored only one point. The picks they traded away have not amounted to anything yet, but the idea of trading away a first round pick for a player who was a bottom-six, defensive forward does not sit nicely.
This trade could find it’s way into the good category, but for now it fits fine inside the in-between. Jake McCabe is a good, two-way, top-four defenceman and getting him at 50% retained for two more seasons after this one was a great move. McCabe was already putting up some nice 5v5 numbers on a bad Chicago Blackhawks team, and that continued in his regular season stint with the Leafs. So far in the playoffs, McCabe has performed terribly, bringing the value of this trade down for now. Lafferty, although not the main piece, hasn’t been anything special. If future seasons and playoff runs go well for McCabe while he’s on the Leafs, this trade will become a good one.
When this trade was made, it was an amazing one. The Leafs wanted to kill cap and Kapanen was looking like he was gonna become nothing more than a middle-six winger. The Leafs also had to trade away their 2020 first rounder to get rid of Patrick Marleau‘s contract so recouping one was a fantastic move. What followed with the pieces they acquired is what brings this trade into the in-between category. Rodrigues wasn’t qualified and the Leafs lost him to the Penguins in free agency due to contract disagreement. Hallander was a solid prospect that was traded away in the McCann move that was classified in the bad category.
Signing John Tavares
Signing the biggest free agent available is usually always a good move, but the contract can bring it down and that’s what happened here. Tavares wanted to go home to Toronto and the Leafs pounced on it. Tavares did give them a hometown discount, but it wasn’t enough to make the contract look good. He set a career high in points in his first season with the Leafs with 88 points. In all of his seasons with the Leafs, Tavares has been right around point per game in all of them and has been a great 2C, but his production has never been around one of an $11 million forward.
After looking at a handful of his moves, I think that Kyle Dubas is a great and experienced, yet young, general manager with room to improve. Dubas has built strong teams in every league he’s worked in. A GM that has the mindset of skill and talent over size and grit is something the Flames desperately need and Dubas is that. He loves numbers and data and enjoys implementing them into his work.
When looking at Dubas’ good moves, they tend to be the ones that follow his vision of analytics. He does say an important part of analytics is to remove bias, but some of his moves go against that which are typically his bad moves. Dubas definitely has flaws. His current lack of playoff success could scare people away from thinking he is a good hire and I do think he falls to the pressure of the media sometimes causing him to make some of the moves he does.
With the Flames wanting a young, progressive, and inventive general manager, Dubas might be able to work more to his style and potentially have more success if they are to hire him.
Calgary Flames GM Candidate Profiles
Check out our previous general manager candidate profiles here to get the full run-down on who Calgary should have considered and why they would be good or bad fits with the team: