In a recent article by Joseph Zita of LeafsNation, he noted the five worst moves Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made during his tenure with the team. Right at the top was the trade between the Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche that moved Nazem Kadri out and brought in Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot. [By the way, there’s no blame pointed at Zita for this post. He’s simply echoing the feelings of most Maple Leafs’ fans. And to Zita’s credit, this post followed another one where he pointed out Dubas’ five best moves.]
How Can We Be Sure Who Did What with the Maple Leafs?
In the post, Zita noted that the trade where the Maple Leafs acquired Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, and a 2020 3rd-round pick from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen, and a 2020 sixth-round pick, was indeed a significant move made by Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. My quibble with this is not to argue whether it’s the best or worst trade Dubas made. Rather, what I wonder about is whether Dubas actually made the trade.
Given what we’ve learned about the way the Maple Leafs’ leadership decision-making worked, we really can’t be certain Dubas made the trade at all. Nor can we be sure what decisions he made – or was directed to make – by Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan.
Dubas is blamed for the moves; but, if he didn’t make them – or did them under executive order but didn’t agree – he carries too much responsibility for the errors.
We’ve Learned More About the Maple Leafs’ Chain of Command Recently
Obviously, I am just speculating; however, the moves of the past two weeks have given us more insight into how the Maple Leafs’ chain of command worked. Dubas, in his final act before being dismissed, sought a more direct leadership role – more autonomy to make decisions. That suggests he felt he didn’t have it.
Again, I’m not arguing that he should have had autonomy – just that he felt he didn’t and he wanted it. The decision is a “pay-grade” choice; and, it wasn’t in Dubas’ authority to make that decision. That’s ok. While I wouldn’t do it that way, I have authority no quibble with it. The organization bears the weight of that choice – for good or for ill.
What I do quibble with is that, if indeed, Dubas made the decisions, why is he left to shoulder the responsibility for their success or their failure? Again, I’m only speculating based on the logic of what I saw occur. And, I might be wrong.
What We Know about the Kadri Trade
What we do know is that, to Maple Leafs’ fans, Nazem Kadri was a beloved player and a fan favourite. He was known for his physicality and offensive contributions. However, Kadri’s suspensions in consecutive playoff series against the Boston Bruins probably also factored into the decision to trade him.
What we also know is that he didn’t want to move. He bled blue blood in his veins. He wanted to stay in Toronto so badly that he nixed a trade to the Calgary Flames, ironically the team he suits up for today.
The trade from a Maple Leafs’ perspective didn’t work out well for the team. Tyson Barrie, the key piece acquired in the trade, did not provide offensive production from the blue line. He struggled to find his footing in Toronto’s defensive system and didn’t meet the expectations placed on him. Additionally, Alex Kerfoot, although a capable player, didn’t have as significant an impact as some fans had hoped.
In hindsight, the trade didn’t yield the planned results for the Maple Leafs. Losing a fan favourite like Kadri, combined with Barrie’s underperformance, might lead some to consider this a questionable move by Dubas.
However, what if he didn’t do it?
What If the Trade Went Down Like This?
Let’s assume for a minute that the trade worked out this way. In a meeting between Dubas and his team with Shanahan, there was a discussion. Shanahan then decided to move Kadri. He left the how and where to Dubas, who set about talking trade to several possible teams. Then, Dubas had to come back to Shanahan to seek his approval.
It could be that this happened several times until Dubas finally created an acceptable scenario. In such a scenario, correct or incorrect, Shanahan decided to trade Kadri. Dubas did the work and got his president’s okay.
If Brendan Shanahan was responsible for this trade, it suggests that throughout Dubas’ tenure, he had a hand in shaping the team’s direction and roster changes. The decision to trade Kadri would have been made to address specific team needs or make strategic changes. Some trades work out and some don’t.
The Same Could Be True for the Nick Foligno Trade
The trade for Nick Foligno from the Columbus Blue Jackets was seen as Dubas second-worst move. Now we aren’t sure he was responsible for the trade. A similar scenario might have been at play within the organization’s decision-making structure.
Again, no quibble with the intent of the trade. It would have been motivated by the desire to bring in a veteran player with leadership qualities to positively impact the team. The fact that Foligno might have been injured when he reported to the team was an issue. The fact that he played just a few games was the bigger issue.
In short, it didn’t work out, and people blamed Dubas for the poor decision. Considering the attribution of bad decisions in retrospect is moot. They are done and Dubas is gone.
Still, it just strikes me as problematic that the general manager (in this case, Dubas) carries significant responsibility for player personnel decisions. However, the overall direction and strategic decisions the team made look like they were typically made (or at least influenced) by the president (in this case, Shanahan).
Because No One Can Be Certain, No Sense in Blaming Anyone
Without detailed information or access to specific events, it is challenging to definitively attribute specific decisions to either Shanahan or Dubas. What we do know is that the dynamic between Dubas and Shanahan fell apart, in part because Dubas wanted more autonomy in the decisions that were made.
No blame is involved – either way. That’s the way the organization did things; and, it’s a way many organizations work.
The bottom line is that we can’t be sure who did what; and, perhaps until we do – if ever – it isn’t wise to point fingers at anyone.
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