If you’ve watched the Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas manage his emotions over the years, you can only come to one conclusion. He’s a master at it. In his end-of-season media address, Dubas discussed a wide range of topics; and, he did so almost emotionlessly.
But, if you listened to him, you could just tell.
Dubas didn’t say things directly, but anyone could tell he was incredulous with the writer who asked him the question about the noise about dumping one or more of the twosome of his two young stars – Auston Matthews the 23-year-old Rocket Richard Trophy winner and yesterday’s nominee for the Ted Lindsay award for the best player in the NHL (as voted for by his peers) and Mitch Marner the 24-year-old who ended the regular season as the NHL’s fourth leading scorer.
Both suffered power outages during the playoffs as their Maple Leafs’ team was beaten in seven games by the Montreal Canadiens. And, since that playoff loss, there has been some talk about either splitting the two up or even the more-drastic move of trading Marner to gain salary-cap space.
The Inevitable Question Came Up about Matthews and Marner
Specifically, one scribe put the question to Dubas this way: “Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have taken a lot of heat in the aftermath of this. How frustrating is it to see them combine for one goal in seven games? Where do you go from here with them?”
In the video below, you can hear Dubas short (less than two minutes) but pointed remark to the writer.
What Dubas Said: Word for Word (with Commentary)
You Don’t Dump Great Players for One Series Failure
Dubas said, “I think disposing of two players of their calibre because the puck didn’t go in the net for them in a seven-game series” (then he named the writer and went on to say) “I think if after the fourth game you weren’t super critical of them, to go after the seventh game and turn on them, from a management perspective, would be foolish.
(Comment: Dubas never looked particularly angry, but his answer suggests that he was. First, he called the writer by name and spoke directly at him. Second, he used the phrase I highlighted “and turn on them.” Never looked angry, but that’s direct talk.)
Media and Fans Think Differently than We Do
Dubas added, “I understand the fans can feel any way they want. Media are entitled to feel the way they want. But these are two awfully great young players who showed over the entire regular season what they are capable of. Each has had success in the playoffs previously.”
(Comment: I read and listen to what’s being said about the Maple Leafs widely. There’s a growing us vs. them set of circles being drawn with team on the inside and the media and fans on the outside. My reading suggests that the team is pulling inside a self-imposed and protective shell a bit because it feels a bit assaulted by “outsiders.” That’s a guess, but I have noted similar us-and-them talk by other players from the Maple Leafs’ organization.)
Matthews and Marner Have Been Great in the Playoffs and Will Be Again
Dubas added, “In the first two years here, Mitch was one of our best players in the playoffs against Washington and Boston. He has shown he has done it before — producing — and he makes such a big impact in other areas of the rink: on the penalty kill, defensively, etc.”
“I have tremendous belief in both of them. They have shown everybody what they are capable of over time. I know, as we continue to go through these seasons and playoffs, the story will be different for them in the future in terms of the way people speak about them following the playoffs.”
(Comment: Dubas believes the two have earned and should be given some latitude and benefit of the doubt.)
Finally, Dubas noted: “I have no doubt that as we progress this journey with our group, the way they are viewed as playoff performers will be much different in the future.”
The Bottom Line?
Although Dubas spoke on this topic less than two minutes, he was clear on the bottom line for him. The bottom line is that Dubas believes in Matthews and Marner. In fact he has ‘tremendous belief’ in the two going forward.
Furthermore, Dubas said he isn’t judging either Matthews of Marner based on poor scoring production during a single (but deeply disappointing) seven-game series. He both believes in them and their ability to get it done in the playoffs in the future.
Finally, Dubas as much suggested that anyone who turns on these two players after two games of the series tighten their grasp on reality. It won’t happen from “inside” the organization.
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