SBD/July 23, 2014/Franchises

Maple Leafs Name "Whiz Kid" Kyle Dubas Assistant GM, Look To Expand Use Of Analytics

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Dubas, now 28, was hired to run the Greyhounds when he was just 25
The Maple Leafs "appear to have changed direction in the front office," announcing the hiring of OHL Soo Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas as Assistant GM, and the departures of VP/Hockey Operations Dave Poulin and VP & Assistant GM Claude Loiselle, according to Darren Yourk of the GLOBE & MAIL. Dubas, now 28, was hired to run the Greyhounds "when he was just 25, making him the second youngest GM in OHL history." Prior to that, he "landed a job with Uptown Sports Management, becoming the youngest player agent certified" by the NHLPA. Dubas was representing players such as Kings LW Kyle Clifford and Sharks D Andrew Desjardins and "helping Uptown establish offices in Calgary and Stockholm when the GM opportunity arrived." Dubas said, "The chance to work for the Toronto Maple Leafs is like a dream come true" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/23). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes Leafs President Brendan Shanahan has put his "stamp on the Maple Leafs this season and for years to come" by hiring Dubas. Shanahan said, "After polling the hockey world pretty much the entire time I’ve been hired, about who are the great minds out there, the innovators, the rising stars, one name that kept coming up was Kyle." Hornby notes Dubas, who "champions analytics in his player evaluations, becomes the youngest assistant GM" in the NHL. A "potential hurdle avoided" by Shanahan yesterday was mention of how Dubas and GM Dave Nonis "will function." Nonis "did not attend the news conference" because of "a family function." Meanwhile, at least "one more hiring is expected" with Poulin gone, as well as Loiselle, who "did salary cap and contract work" (TORONTO SUN, 7/23).

THE GRAND PECKING ORDER: In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes Nonis had his "right and left arms cut off by Shanahan" with the Dubas hiring. Randy Carlyle is "still the coach" and Nonis is "still the general manager." But now each is "on alert to understand well enough the next people to go might be them" (TORONTO SUN, 7/23). SI.com's Allan Muir noted Shanahan's decision to retain both Nonis and Carlyle has "drawn fire from some quarters, but he obviously respects them as hockey men." He has "nevertheless put them on notice by getting rid of their trusted aides and forcing them to look at the game in a new way." Nonis and Carlyle "may still be leading the conversations, but new voices are going to be heard." New approaches "will be considered" (SI.com, 7/22).

PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME: ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote hiring Dubas is "a signal that the Maple Leafs are now embracing analytics under Shanahan after resistance from the previous regime." Dubas has been "called hockey's Theo Epstein" (ESPN.com, 7/22). In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes the move "marks a moment of convention-shaking self-realization." Dubas is "a numbers-savvy whiz kid with an affinity for the advanced analytics hockey has been slow to embrace" (TORONTO STAR, 7/23). SPORTSNET's Chris Johnston wrote under the header, "Dubas Hire Signals Massive Shift For Leafs." The shift toward advanced statistics "is well underway across the hockey industry and will soon reshape it entirely." What is most significant is that Shanahan "recognized the Leafs were on the wrong side of history and sought to change that course" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes Dubas will "introduce the new metrics gospel to the club's hockey Pharisees, who still work off stone tablets." Dubas puts the Leafs "in line with a progressive trend in every big-money business." He "didn't get this job despite his age," but he is "here -- at least in part -- because of it." The "new breed" of sports execs are "wonks and technocrats; numbers people and disciples of the objectivity cult." Two years ago, the average age of the GMs and their lieutenants across MLSE's "three big-league properties was 53. Today, it's 40" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/23).

TAMING EXPECTATIONS: SPORTSNET's Tyler Dellow noted one of the "challenges that NHL teams face in incorporating analytics into what they’re doing is that they aren’t particularly well equipped to separate the good analytics work from the bad." Dubas' experience "in doing so will enable the Maple Leafs to avoid a lot of the potential pitfalls that exist" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Sunaya Sapurji noted Dubas has been "dubbed as a 'stats guru' and is often compared" to Epstein and A's GM Billy Beane. But Dubas will "be the first to tell you he's not." Sapurji: "Sorry, but Dubas is not the math-based messiah who will lead the Maple Leafs to glory." Dubas is a "very astute, hard-working man, who is loyal and open to new ideas." The thought that Dubas is "going to come in and change the Leafs with some grand paradigm shift is absurd." He is "just a new piece in a very large, dysfunctional puzzle" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/22).
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