Elliotte Friedman was the man who first announced on a HNIC broadcast that Kyle Dubas was talking to the Colorado Avalanche about some kind of position there. He said at the time that the Leafs had granted permission, but the timing on when or if this conversation had already happened was never clear.
Less is clear now.
Today, Friedman appeared on Sprortsnet’s Boomer in the Morning show in Calgary, and updated the story. It begins at 11:13 of the audio stream with these words: “I gotta tell you, this is a weird story.”
He then goes on to say:
I think it’s over. That whatever window was there since I reported it, and one of the things I said on Tuesday when I mentioned it is I’m not exactly sure where it stands. Sometimes when you actually go to air with something or write something, it brings even more clarity, and that’s the case here.
I believe the window is closed. I don’t think he’ll be going, and I believe that Toronto closed the window. That initially they were willing to let him go and then they weren’t.
You should listen to this for yourself. Tone of voice tells you things words don’t. To me Friedman sounds like he’s picking his words very carefully, like they are surrounded by live wires he’s unwilling to touch. It is a weird story.
Friedman goes on to relate that Colorado pushed back and said his initial report was inaccurate and that no conversation happened. He speculates that it is possible that there were people, and he doesn’t say who, in Colorado who hadn’t known the team had made this move to speak to Dubas. He doesn’t say who was pushing back either.
Firedman then reiterates that he believes some kind of contact happened, and that the Leafs first gave permission and then revoked it. But he also talks in general terms about the way sources reacted to him on this story was weird. That word again.
He finishes up that portion of the discussion talking about the succession plan in the Leafs front office to replace Lou Lamoriello when he retires, and the gist is: no one knows.
So what is this weird story all about?
First, I would say that the Avalanche organization is in flux, to put it kindly. Patrick Roy had organizational equality with Joe Sakic. They jointly had a boss or bosses who reported to ownership, but they ran that team in partnership. With Roy gone, with a new coach on board and a disaster of a season behind them, they have to chart a new course.
While Sakic has been given a vote of confidence by ownership, he has done essentially nothing yet so far this off-season to really indicate which way the team is moving: trade everyone over a certain age and tank like mad for Rasmus Dahlin or take a more measured approach.
In addition, the Avalanche’s AHL team has had very poor results, and saw most of their top scoring players voluntarily leave last year before their RFA contracts even came up for discussion.
At the IIHF World Championships just last week, Avs fans (of whom I consider myself to partially be one still) watched as the centre the Avs invested a lot of cap space in, Carl Söderberg, was cut from the gold-medal winning Swedish team. So maybe he wasn’t having that great a tournament after his bad season. It happens. The kicker, however, was his replacement.
One of those AHL players the Avs lost last year was Dennis Everberg. After playing most of a season in the NHL, he ended up in the AHL, and chose to go back to Sweden rather than hang around an organization that didn’t seem to have room for him. He was a star in the SHL, and he signed a KHL contract this summer. And he was the man who replaced Söderberg on the third line and helped win a medal.
That did not look good for the men in Denver who had made the opposite choices. And at some point, everyone, fans included, has to stop assuming every bad decision was made by Patrick Roy.
All of this speaks to an organization that is in desperate need of improvement in player evaluation, player development and prospect growth. That sounds exactly like Kyle Dubas’s wheelhouse to me. He is the man who runs the Marlies, where players tell the press they are treated like Kings, and they extol the value of the extra specialized coaching they get. The Marlies have also added a long, long list of valuable players acquired without draft picks.
So it’s easy to see why Colorado might want Dubas. But the question now is, who was asking? Not Sakic, perhaps. Perhaps, and this is total speculation, but perhaps it was Sakic’s boss, or even the owner himself, who wanted a development-focused executive on the team. But at what level? Was the idea to put an AGM in under Sakic? Or was the idea to have Sakic be a Vice President but not a Genaral Manager anymore?
And what of Toronto?
It’s not clear why they would give Dubas permission to speak to Colorado at all. You don’t want to stand in the way of advancement of your people; you hire people expecting them to leave. Or take your job. But the Leafs aren’t exactly out of the development stage of the team. No team ever really is. The Leafs needs are in Dubas’s wheelhouse too.
So many things could have been going on here. And the real story will likely never be known, but it could simply be a case of timing. The Leafs have an expansion draft, a draft, and a free agent period all coming on in a rush. Maybe they just said to their mystery contact in Denver: enough is enough, and we need to have confidential discussions with Dubas in the room, your time to waffle on this has expired. Maybe they just make decisions more quickly than whoever it was in Colorado running this play.
As of now, as Friedman emphasized, he believes the window is closed. We should expect someone to open it again someday, however.
And the Avs? Who knows. They still look poised to take their first step this off-season, foot in the air, not sure where to set it down.