Toronto Maple Leafs Hot Seat: GM admits job could be on the line this season

Leafs Dubas knows heat is on.

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Sep 18, 2018; Lucan, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas on his laptop before the start of their game against the Ottawa Senators at Lucan Community Memorial Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Dubas is still wisely considered one of the game’s best executives. The fact that he’s just 35 years-old and the youngest active GM in the NHL is even more impressive.

Since taking over for Lou Lamoriello as the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs in May of 2018, his teams have gone 117-67-24. That’s good for the 8th best record in the league over the last three seasons.

Playoff failures have Kyle Dubas on notice

Unfortunately for Dubas and the Leafs, they are just 8-11 in the playoffs over that same span. That was capped with a first round exit against the Montreal Canadiens this past season after being up 3 games to 1 in the series.

After that devastating collapse, Dubas knows another quick ouster could mean his job.

“I think it’s certainly fair to say that if there aren’t changes to our performance in the end that there will be changes to the organization,” Dubas told Bob McCown on his podcast this week. “That comes with the territory in operating in a market like this and operating with a team that hasn’t reached its potential in the playoffs.”

The Leafs GM is banking on his core four more than ever this season. That’s because some key players are no longer with the club.

maple leafs
May 31, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews (34) and Mitch Marner (16) shake hands with Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) and forward Corey Perry (94) after the Canadiens beat the Leafs 3-1 in game seven of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Hyman’s departure via free-agency to the Oilers was a big hit, and replacing him with Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase isn’t going to help. Dubas is going to bank on Ilya Mikheyev to step up a play a more prominent role and will need him to produce.

However, the biggest hole could be in goal with Frederik Andersen signing with the Carolina Hurricanes. Hoping Jack Campbell can be an everyday #1 goalie and adding Petr Mrazek for insurance could spell disaster for Dubas.

“I think it’s certainly fair to ponder [changes], and especially given the fact that we’re going to return the same core group, which I have great belief in,” Dubas said via NHL.com. “If I didn’t have belief in it, knowing the consequences to the team, we wouldn’t have returned it.”

Auston Matthews believes the Leafs will get it done

One of those core four members, Auston Matthews spoke with ESPN this summer. The topic of last season’s playoff loss in the opening round came up and he laid it all out there.

“It’s obviously really frustrating. It sucks right now,” Matthews said. “People have opinions and they can say what they want, and rightfully so, but I really believe in the team and I really believe in all of the players on the team.”

Despite his disappointment in how they lost to the Canadiens, Matthews’ belief in the core of the Leafs remains unshaken. “I truly believe that we’re going to get it done,” he explained. “We’re going to be better from our losses, and from the adversity that we faced.”

The Leafs were rattled by the loss of John Tavares in the opening game, and the series may have gone different if he was healthy. Same goes for Matthews who was hampered by injuries of his own.

On August 14, the team announced Matthews had wrist surgery and that the operation was a success. However; the timetable on his return is six weeks. With the regular season set to begin Oct. 12, Matthews likely won’t miss any official games, though he might miss part of training camp.

Dubas is going to need him to be healthy and better than ever.

It’s players like Matthews, Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander that need to produce in the post season to save Dubas’ job.