Toronto Maple Leafs: Time for Kyle Dubas to make his mark

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: (L-R) Lou Lamoriello and Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs attend the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: (L-R) Lou Lamoriello and Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs attend the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With Lou Lamoriello’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs up in the air, it could finally be time for Kyle Dubas to take over and make his stamp on this roster.

There is a strong possibility that Lou Lamoriello returns to his role as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but if the team decides to go in a new direction they have a more than adequate replacement.

For the past four years, Kyle Dubas has been working with Mark Hunter to rehaul the Leafs’ development system. Hunter spends most of his time scouting and preparing for the draft, while Dubas is in charge of the Toronto Marlies.

There has been much debate about which of the two would succeed Lamoriello when the time comes and recent rumours would suggest Dubas is the frontrunner. He was being pursued by the Colorado Avalanche last year, before the Leafs decided to pull the plug. 

What it really comes down to is whether Brendan Shanahan believes Dubas is ready to step in, or if he wants Lamoriello to decide for himself.

If it does end up being the 31-year-old, there will certainly be questions about what direction Dubas would want to go. He has a strong core to work with but also areas that need improvement, giving him the chance to make his mark on the roster.

There have been small doses of that with players like William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, and Travis Dermott all graduating from the Marlies, to play with the Leafs.

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Before Lamoriello joined the Leafs, Dubas and the rest of the management group were in charge of keeping the team in check, especially after Dave Nonis was relieved of his duties.

In that time they made three trades:

The first was seen as a minor transaction when the team traded for Hyman, sending Greg McKegg to the Florida Panthers and it’s safe to say that trade has worked out so far.

On free agency day, they made a bigger move by trading Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the final deal was for Taylor Beck, but he never played for the Leafs. When the Kessel trade was made it was met with criticism, because of the return and the fact they retained salary.

In return, the team got Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, a conditional first rounder and a third-round pick. At the time Dubas told reporters there was one crucial part to getting the deal done:

"“If Kapanen wasn’t in the deal, I don’t think we’d be standing here,” Dubas said “He’s a highly-skilled guy with excellent feet. … He’s a player with a lot of potential.”"

It appears that the faith Dubas showed in Kapanen and the organization’s patience with his development is starting to pay off. He will probably play a bigger role on the team next season, with James van Riemsdyk likely to leave via free agency.

Not to be forgotten was the 2015 draft, which has been a memorable one not only for the fact the team selected Mitch Marner, but the way the other draft picks have worked out.

Along with Marner, Dermott has made his impact on the Leafs’ roster, while Jeremy Bracco, Andrew Nielsen, and Dmytro Timashov are playing crucial roles with the Marlies.

Now it is one thing to have success in the AHL because trying to replicate that in the NHL is tough, but the Leafs have shown they are committed to doing things the right way. What better way than to see what Dubas can do in a bigger role, considering the number of years he’s spent under Lamoriello.

Even TSN’s Bob McKenzie is a big believer in what the future holds for Dubas:

"“The one thing – and again, it’s just an opinion, don’t take it to the bank because it’s not a money-back guarantee – I believe sooner rather than later Kyle Dubas will be the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.I think when he had the opportunity to go to Colorado and the Leafs blocked it it was because Brendan Shanahan feels that Kyle Dubas is going to be a big-time general manager in the National Hockey League, and he wants it to be in Toronto.”"

If that happens, Dubas would have to make defence a priority, but it won’t be easy and the impact might not be immediate. The other dynamic to consider is with head coach Mike Babcock and how that relationship will be.

Consider how the Tampa Bay Lightning have been able to bring up players from the AHL and remain a contender each year. This is probably what the Leafs hope Dubas can bring.

Next: Defensive upgrades needed for the Leafs

This has the potential to be a big summer for the Leafs, considering how this season ended. If Dubas is given the promotion, it will certainly usher in a different era in the front office.