TORONTO – Kyle Dubas didn’t just double down.
The Toronto Maple Leafs normal manager pushed his chips all-in – a determination that could go a very long way in defining his tenure in the tension-packed role he’s occupied because the spring of 2018.
Dubas as soon as all over again resisted any prospective off-season urge to blow up the core of his really skilled nonetheless playoff-results-starved roster next a further initial-round exit very last May.
Toronto, in truth, confirmed superior than in previous publish-period failures. The end result – a razor-skinny, seven-activity decline to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning – was the exact, but the experience was the Leafs had been on the proper track and deserved a possibility to run it back again.
With his agreement established to expire at the finish of the 2022-23 campaign, nonetheless, Dubas could not have the likelihood to make a related conclusion if a group he’s backed unconditionally is as soon as once again unable to supply.
So in which does that belief arrive from?
“Being all around the team each and every working day,” the 36-year-previous executive stated at the start of schooling camp. “When the group was younger, I think you’re trying to create your self. Now they are striving to establish collectively that they can get.
“I never hope folks to hear that and consider it. They’re heading to want us to display it, and which is 100 for every cent acceptable. But I see what the group is about each individual working day.”
That optimism is properly-founded – at minimum on paper and when inspecting standard-period final results.
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The playoffs have been an additional tale.
A workforce led by reigning Hart Trophy winner and 60-intention person Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander has failed to advance to the 2nd round in six consecutive seasons dating again to the club’s return to playoff action in 2016-17.
On the flip facet, Toronto has also fallen to a staff that went onto make the Stanley Cup closing three of the past 4 seasons (Boston in 2019, Montreal in 2021 and Tampa in 2022) considering that upcoming captain John Tavares signed in the summertime of 2018.
The Leafs past moved on in the playoffs in 2004 – right before the NHL instituted a income cap and right before Twitter existed – and owns the league’s longest Stanley Cup drought courting again to 1967.
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“It’s gonna be a narrative,” Matthews, the two-time defending Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy winner as the NHL purpose chief, claimed of earlier write-up-time stumbles. “We can only control what we can manage.”
Head mentor Sheldon Keefe stated the challenge in advance is apparent for a crew eyeing a division title for the first time in a regular year since 1999-00.
“We definitely embrace that,” he claimed. “An extraordinary opportunity for us to carry on to expand as a staff and consider that head on.”
“We’re not going to give up,” defenceman Morgan Rielly additional. “We’re not likely to give up on this approach.”
Fellow blue-liner Jake Muzzin, who won the Stanley Cup with Los Angeles in 2014, reported “it’s time” to repay the faith Dubas has revealed.
“We have a excellent option,” he stated. “You want to take advantage of it.”
To a person, the players know their GM has put his neck on the line.
“He’s place the belief in us and kept the staff alongside one another,” Nylander claimed. “He’s basically put everything down on us to triumph.”
CAN MATTHEWS Thrust Previous 60?
In 2021-22, Toronto’s greatest player grew to become the to start with NHLer to attain 60 objectives in a time since Steven Stamkos a decade ago.
Matthews, who has two a long time still left on his agreement and can indicator an extension subsequent summer time, is loath to go over statistical aims. But 65 plans – Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 is the very last participant to hit that mark – could be attainable if the 25-year-outdated can continue to be in the lineup.
His 60 aims past season came irrespective of missing 10 game titles to damage and suspension.
“I really don’t believe you at any time know what to anticipate,” Rielly said of Matthews. “I would count on very little other than a great time and a genuinely inspired unique who’s just one of the most effective gamers – 1 of the most effective athletes – in the world.”
CREASE Problem MARK
The Leafs went about a big renovation to their goaltending department, waving goodbye to starter Jack Campbell and the underperforming Petr Mrazek.
Stepping into the spotlight are replacements with chips on their shoulders in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.
A two-time Cup winner with Pittsburgh, Murray experienced a miserable final two seasons with Ottawa, even though Samsonov – a 2015 initial-round decide on – was minimize loose by Washington.
“A new possibility,” Matthews reported of Toronto’s new crease duo. “Two guys that come to feel like they have a ton to demonstrate.”
The Battle of Ontario has sat largely dormant since the mid-2000s.
But with the Ottawa Senators coming out of their rebuild and the Leafs among the the Atlantic Division’s significant hitters, the provincial rivalry could after again heat up commencing Saturday at Scotiabank Arena.
An additional day circled is the March 11 return to Toronto for Campbell, who signed with the Edmonton Oilers in absolutely free agency. The Leafs also confront their previous teammate March 1 in the Alberta cash.
This report by The Canadian Push was 1st published Oct. 9, 2022.
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