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Kyle Dubas: Orlando "sacrificed the success of their own team" for the Marlies

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In words spoken on locker cleanout day, Kyle Dubas thanked the ECHL affiliate and wondered how the Marlies benefited the Solar Bears in return.

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What does an AHL team want from its even-more-minor league affiliate? At the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, Kyle Dubas said that he wanted to treat the Solar Bears like the baseball minor leagues. And he did, stashing Marlies prospects in Orlando, and mining the Bears throughout the season for prospects when injury hit the Marlies.

What does an ECHL team want from its big brother affiliate? In return, Solar Bears players benefited from time spent in the AHL, the front office benefited from the Leafs system analytics team that helped track player metrics, and the coaching staff benefited from a wider perspective on coaching in the hockey world.

But what did fans of the Orlando Solar Bears, Orlando's only hockey team, get from the affiliation? On the plus side, Orlando fans benefited from Marlies prospects, especially good goaltenders. On the minus side, Orlando fans suffered from a team that was constantly destabilized by sending prospects north, something that according to Dubas might have contributed to the losing season.

Is Toronto a good fit for the Orlando market?

During locker cleaning day, Dubas was asked how he felt the affiliation with the Solar Bears panned out. His reply was honest and blunt: "They've helped us a lot. I don't know that we've helped them a lot. I feel horrible, especially in the second half of the year. Todd [Crocker] would know exactly how many players we used this year. It felt like every day there was somebody being shuttled somewhere, you know."

There were 55 transactions between the Solar Bears and Marlies between October 2015 and April 2016.

This is not news to Orlando fans, who ended the season disappointed as the team failed to secure a playoff berth after achieving one the season before.

"[The Solar Bears have] helped us a lot. I don't know that we've helped them a lot. I feel horrible, especially in the second half of the year." -- Kyle Dubas

Part of the reason for the losing season could have been due to many changes happening at once. Coach Anthony Noreen had his rookie professional season just as Toronto increased its involvement and sent down a number of young players. Noreen is excellent at developing young players; he came to Orlando from the Youngstown Phantoms after focusing on coaching college hockey at University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. Developing players is, as Noreen has often said, his first priority.

Dubas mentioned that the decision to supply players was not his, but Orlando's. He credits Noreen and assistant coach John Snowden for always sending up Marlies prospects that were well-prepared for the AHL.

"The Solar Bears have been incredible," Dubas said. "The players have all been prepared to play. Anthony and John Snowden completely sacrificed the success of their own team. There were times when they could've said, 'no, don't bring this guy, we really need him this weekend,' and I would've said, 'okay, we'll find somebody somewhere,' and they never -- they insisted that we take their players."

Better players that can move easily up and down the affiliate will surely result in a better Orlando team, right? It definitely benefits the players. In the words of Dubas, "When you're a player at that level, that's what you want, a coach that's always pushing you. It doesn't always happen that way there."

But problems arise when there are only three defensemen, or seven forwards, available to play a game. (The whole quote from Noreen is this: "There were some nights when I dressed three defensemen, or seven forwards.")

Orlando has extended the affiliation for another year, with an option for an additional year, for which Dubas is grateful. He also pointed to a possibility that we've heard rumors of (rumors that Noreen refuted) -- Noreen leaving his stint as an ECHL coach rather swiftly as he gains experience.

"So we've extended the affiliation there by up to two years," Dubas said. "Anthony, I don't know how long he's going to be there before you see his name brought about in a lot of different positions for college or pro. But we certainly value it more than I can probably define right now, it's been of massive importance for us."

Knowing the issues from last year, will the next year of affiliation allow the Solar Bears to win hockey games as well as develop prospects?

Orlando fans hope so.

~

Transcription of the Solar Bears portion at the 7:50 mark below.

Chris Lund: You've put a lot of stock in your relationship with the Solar Bears. How have they helped this season, especially with all the player flux?

Dubas: They've helped us a lot. I don't know that we've helped them a lot. I feel horrible, especially in the second half of the year. Todd would know exactly how many players we used this year. It felt like every day there was somebody being shuttled somewhere, you know. It's up to Brad, he's communicating with Anthony there. The Solar Bears have been incredible, they players have all been prepared to play, Anthony and John Snowden completely sacrificed the success of their own team.

There were times when they could've said, 'no, don't bring this guy, we really need him this weekend,' and I would've said, 'okay, we'll find somebody somewhere,' and they never -- they insisted that we take their players. When you're a player at that level, that's what you want, a coach that's always pushing you. It doesn't always happen that way there. So we've extended the affiliation there by up to two years.

Anthony, I don't know how long he's going to be there before you see his name brought about in a lot of different positions for college or pro. But we certainly value it more than I can probably define right now, but it's been of massive importance for us.