TORONTO – Change was on the mind, but Brendan Shanahan wasnt looking explicitly for a new assistant general manager. The Maple Leafs president was combing the hockey world, trying to pick out the innovative thinkers, the rising stars, the great minds. One name kept coming up: Kyle Dubas, formerly the 28-year-old general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and now assistant general manager to Dave Nonis in Toronto. Such was the latest shift in direction of the newly minted Shanahan era, one that has seen a coaching staff plundered, a roster reconstructed, a July 1st pass quietly (and prudently) by, and now a management team altered – Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle fired Tuesday. “I like to surround myself with people that challenge ideas, that think differently,” Shanahan said. “The more I got to know Kyle the more I realized that this was somebody that obviously was an extreme talent.” Through extensive conversations with Dubas over the past few weeks, Shanahan, who accumulated nearly 700 goals and three Stanley Cups as a player, kept coming away with fresh thoughts and perspectives about the game. In Dubas, he appears to have found someone willing to think differently, a rising front office prodigy known for his openness to new ideas, including analytics. “I just found him intriguing,” said Shanahan, standing alongside Dubas at an introductory press conference from the Air Canada Centre. “I was learning things I didnt know and just wanted to learn more.” “Ive got the impression in talking to Brendan and talking to Dave that theyre certainly open to any and all ideas. That was one of the things that was most enticing about the situation here for me,” said Dubas, particularly enthused to work alongside Nonis, himself once a young assistant general manager in Vancouver. In just three short years in Sault Ste. Marie, Dubas – hired at age 25, mind you – helped steer the Greyhounds from the playoff wilderness to a West division title. He was once a teenage scout for his hometown junior team and later the youngest player agent to be certified by the NHLPA. Rising fast through the hockey ranks, he is known to be thoughtful, respectful and innovative in his thinking, a breath of fresh air to a game thats often remained engrained in old habits. Though not an all-out stats guru as portrayed in some corners, hes shown a willingness to consider the merits of analytics, employing them where suitable to help his team in the Sault. The Maple Leafs, previously led by noted analytics opponent Brian Burke, have been slow to adjust to the “Money-Puck revolution,” which has crept louder and louder into the game in recent years. And if not a voice for that community, Dubas should, at the very least, open up Nonis, Randy Carlyle and the entire group in Toronto to some different ideas. “Its really about learning as much as I can and getting as much information as I can,” Dubas said. “I havent run the team in Sault St. Marie based solely on statistics, its been a good size part of what weve integrated in, but the rest of it is just hockey. Its evaluating players, scouting reports, dealing with the personalities on the team, trying to hire the best scouts and people. And certainly the analytics, Ive found it to be a major help to me personally in the way that I view the game and just create a better level of certainty to decisions.” “Information is power,” Shanahan added. “Its about eliminating some of the noise and seeing what information works best for you, your team, and the direction you and your team want to go with. “Hes obviously got a great appreciation and understanding of analytics, but hes also married that to the complexities and instincts you have to have when youre putting a product on the ice. Hes not just talked about it, but hes done it.” Todd Reynolds, formerly a colleague in the agent business, says Dubas is not some analytics guru, but rather a well-rounded hockey mind on the rise. “I dont think its all about analytics like people have wanted to make it out to be today,” he told TSN.ca. “Hes not a computer nerd. Hes not sitting there crunching numbers and bringing sheets of paper into the GMs office with recommendations. Hes much more complete than that.” Reynolds firm, Uptown Sports Management, hired Dubas fresh out of the Brock University sports management program. They had known him to be “mature beyond his years” from past dealings with the Greyhounds organization. Dubas, they believed, was sensible, trustworthy and related well to people senior to him. “It really wasnt as much of a stretch or a leap of faith on our part as people thought it was at the time,” Reynolds said. “He held his own. [His age] was used against him at times – as you can imagine our business is competitive, the industry is – and people would say ‘Really, youre thinking about going with him? The kids 20-year-old. So it was used against him successfully at times, at other times he overcame it. “We encouraged him ‘just continue doing what youre doing and people wont talk about your age theyll talk about your track record.” And so they werent surprised at the Burlington headquarters of Uptown Sports to learn a few years down the road that Dubas had earned the GM job in hockey-mad Sault Ste. Marie – as one of the youngest GMs in OHL history – nor taken aback on this day when he rose to the NHL. “We all knew this was coming,” Reynolds said. Shanahan claims he never set out to hire an assistant general manager, but planned on assessing the various levels of the organization over the offseason and instilling change from there. He expected more hires to the management team, likely needing a replacement for Loiselle as it pertained to contract negotiations, the CBA, and the cap, and someone to assume Poulins duties, which included management of the Marlies. Tuesdays proceedings were ultimately another step in the remaking of the Leafs in Shanahans vision. That vision started to take shape with the early May firings of the coaching staff and the retaining of Carlyle. It continued with the selection of William Nylander at the draft, varied roster pursuits in and around July 1st – quiet for Toronto standards – and a pair of new hires (and voices) to surround Carlyle, including the youthful Steve Spott. In Dubas meanwhile, Shahanan will look for a different voice, a fresher perspective that may have been lacking. “Im just an assistant GM,” said Dubas. “Ill do what Im asked and go from there.” Sebastian Janikowski Seahawks Jersey
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