13 Musings: Why the Leafs can’t afford a lame-duck GM


So, either Kyle Dubas got a contract extension and didn’t tell anybody, or he’s a lame-duck general manager whose every move will be seen through the lens of someone trying to save his job.

Dubas got a five-year deal in 2018 when he took over from Lou Lamoriello as GM of the Maple Leafs. This is the fifth year.

I truly doubt he’d go through the year as a lame duck. The Leafs are wealthy enough to double his salary, give him another five years and fire him the next day if they wanted. They’ve been paying Mike Babcock not to coach. There’s no real reason for Dubas to carry the lame-duck mantle.

But boy oh boy, would things be interesting around here if he did.

For all intents and purposes, the Leafs GM and Auston Matthews’s camp should be working on the parameters of an extension that Matthews will be eligible to sign on July 1, 2023. That, coincidentally, is the day a full no-movement clause kicks in for the final year of his contract.

The GM — presumably Dubas, but somebody else if that’s the way ownership wants it — has to have some idea of Matthews’s intentions before that clause goes into effect.

This is not the year to be messing around with front-office changes. Or if ownership is going to make changes, better to do it soon so the new regime will have time to get a read on Matthews.

Dubas, by the way, would be offered a job in a second if he were available as a managerial free agent.

GOT A QUESTION? Welcome back to my weekly 13 Musings. Hopefully the Mailbag returns, too. For that to happen, I’d need some questions. Send your questions to [email protected] and let’s get the party going.

For now, here are 13 things that are on my mind.

1. Auston Matthews missed training camp last year, missed 10 games and scored 60 goals. This year, a full camp and hopefully a full season. Goalies beware.

2. Gotta believe the Leafs will go slowly before putting a sponsor’s logo on the front of their game sweater, especially after the backlash in Montreal. The Leafs do wear a Ford logo on the front of their practice jerseys. It’s inevitable, however. Let’s hope they don’t end up looking like F1 drivers.

3. The Leafs have to be sick and tired of answering questions about winning a round in the playoffs. I should know. I’m sick and tired of asking those questions.

4. One guy the Leafs are all rooting for is Rodion Amirov. The first-round pick from 2020 was diagnosed with a brain tumour last season. He has yet to play a game this season, or to be listed on a roster. He’s been working out with Ufa-based HC Salavat Yulaev. He said over the summer he hopes to play in November.

5. The Ufa KHL team is named after a real person: Salawat Yulayev, a rebel who rose up against the Russians in a doomed uprising (1773-75). (I don’t know why the team is spelled one way and the person another, but I would suspect they’re pronounced the same way in Russian.)

6. My bet: Hockey Canada officials won’t quit; they’re waiting to be fired. The latter will come with an exit package, or a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.

7. The Flames might be a better team with Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar, but that’s a lot of change at key positions. That usually means a slow start.

8. Expectations are higher in Ottawa than they’ve been since Daniel Alfredsson was captain. So put D.J. Smith high on the watch list of coaches on the firing line. He’s been playing with house money during this elongated rebuild. If they’re not actually better, it will be Smith who walks the plank.

9. The Winnipeg Jets are going to be a train wreck, right?

10. Wouldn’t be surprised if Ken Holland steps away from his GM role with the Oilers at the end of this season, focusing on the job as president. Hearing whispers to that end, anyway.

11. The Vegas Golden Knights are putting a lot of faith in a goalie no one has ever heard of. Logan Thompson played the 2018-19 season at Brock University in U Sports.

10. Another hockey season on the horizon and that means another year of the alphabet soup women’s hockey organizations being divided. The PWHPA (think national-team players) start Oct. 15 and 16 in Montreal. The PHF season begins Nov. 5 (Toronto Six at home to the Minnesota Whitecaps.)

12. The Sportsnet app hasn’t let me down in a while. The TSN app, however, appears to be a disaster. It works on my iPhone, but I’d rather watch on my TV (without casting). It’s laggy on my Android box, and can’t even be downloaded on Fire. It’s 2022. Streaming has been around awhile. I mean, c’mon.

13. We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the WHA’s first season, and there are at least two reunions planned. Can’t wait to hear the stories regarding the rogue league.


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